Will we be eating beef or tofu in the future?
Federal rules and regulations always have broad impacts and rarely
ever go away. If rules and regulations make sense, are cost effective,
and address real problems, then they promote the general welfare. When
they do not meet these criteria, the general welfare suffers.
In the case of imprudent and counterproductive rules and regulations,
some people gain. For example, the “new jobs” created to
implement these measures provide work for some. And “special
interests,” whose agenda is furthered, feel vindicated. Everyone
else ends up footing the bill and receiving no benefit or are harmed.
Not only are compliance costs imposed; often, goods or services that
would otherwise enter the stream of commerce never do.
A recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal illustrates
an imprudent and counterproductive idea. A 2007 U.S. Supreme Court
ruling concluded that greenhouse gases emitted by the “belching
and flatulence” of livestock constitute air pollution. The EPA,
in response, is moving to solve this “air pollution” problem
in classic bureaucratic style: it has proposed fees and would create
a new bureaucracy while not actually addressing the alleged problem.
After its proposal, a hailstorm of protest followed
and it is now denying it was serious about the plan.
Under the plan, cattle operations with 50 or more cows would pay an
annual tax of $87.50 per cow; for dairy operations with 25 or more
cows the annual tax would per cow is $175; and for hog operations with
200 or more the annual tax per hog would be $20. Based on 2002 U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) animal inventories, the EPA plan would
impose $10.17 BILLION in fees on cattle, dairy, and hog producers.
The EPA claims its proposal only affects operations that emit 100 tons
of carbon or more. There are no studies showing that the emissions
cause any measurable harm to anyone. Spokesmen for the cattle, dairy,
and hog industries claim the measure would drive thousands of producers
out of business.
Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, believes it “makes perfect sense if you are looking
for ways to cut down on meat consumption and recoup environmental losses.” Interestingly,
no one explains how the proposal, if implemented, would “recoup
The EPA says the “fees” will cover the cost of issuing
a permit for the livestock operation. They will also add more than
$10 billion to American’s food bill. This huge cost, however,
is just the beginning of the impact of such a plan. The likely outcome
would be elimination of thousands of producers. Imports would replace
the lost production. As with oil, America would become dependent on
foreign suppliers of beef, pork, ham, bacon, and dairy products.
Of course, if there were measurable benefits, such a scheme may arguably
make sense. However, the proposal is not driven by any identified actual
harm. The EPA is proposing a drastic solution to a non-existent problem.
The agency is now running from its proposal.
This is classic “special-interest” legislation. It has
nothing to do the promotion of the general welfare, which is the responsibility
of government. Instead, it has to do with promoting quasi-religious
adherence to creating government jobs, increasing the revenue stream
for government, and promoting elitist ideologies.
The EPA’s proposal would not reduce carbon emissions. An EPA
spokesman said, “The only means of controlling such emissions
would be through limiting production, which would result in decreased
food supply and radical changes in human diets.” The EPA and
those behind this proposal know exactly what it will do. It has nothing
to do with carbon emissions and everything to do with imposing a radical
ideology on the American people, whether they want it or not. Carbon
emissions are simply the pretense to accomplish this goal.
In typical agency speak, EPA spokesman Dale Kemery denied that this
is a cow tax. He called the rules notice an “in-depth exploration
of the opportunities and challenges that the application of (Clean
Air Act) authorities would present.”
If EPA had no intention of implementing the plan, why was the plan
proposed? It was proposed because it is the opening move on the way
to destroying an industry and changing America’s eating habits.
This is one more example of how special interests force changes, whether
we want them or not. This is nothing new. Wetland preservation and
seatbelt laws began the same way.
Prepare for tofu and empty pastures.
A Voice from Fly-Over
A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright (c) 2008 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
All rights reserved.
Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law
School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit
public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved
in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways
to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.
See a complete biographical sketch.
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