Cattlemen Support Senate Superfund Legislation
WASHINGTON - Bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate are rallying in support of legislation confirming Congress never intended for America’s farmers and ranchers to be subject to 1980s Superfund laws established to address extreme toxic waste sites. The Senate legislation reaffirms that the original Superfund laws, titled Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), do not apply to natural animal waste on farms and ranches.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is applauding action from lead Senate co-sponsors of the legislation Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), as well as 21 other Senate co-sponsors.
“Members of the Senate clearly understand how absurd it is that our family farms are somehow being sneakily targeted by exploitation of the Superfund laws,” says Jay Truitt, NCBA vice president of government affairs. “Manure is a natural and beneficial fertilizer that’s been used in agriculture for centuries. It is already highly regulated under federal and state laws, and clearly has nothing to do with the toxic Superfund clean-up laws.”
The Superfund laws were created to provide for cleanup of toxic waste dumps and hazardous chemical spills, to force reporting of releases of hazardous chemicals and to enable emergency response. Both the CERCLA and EPCRA already contain provisions exempting fertilizer and other substances used in agricultural operations from their regulations.
“Cattle producers are extensively regulated under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and other federal and state environmental laws,” explains Missouri cattle producer and NCBA President Mike John. “Farmers and ranchers have never been regulated by CERCLA or EPCRA.”
“Manure is a natural fertilizer, used in agriculture for centuries and especially essential to the organic food industry, clearly NOT a Superfund concern,” explains NCBA’s Director of Environmental Issues Tamara Thies. “It is currently well-regulated by a wide range of tough federal and state environmental laws, regulations and permitting requirements.”
Identical companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 4341) has already gained 174 cosponsors from 40 states.
“This is one of those absurd issues that you can’t decide whether to laugh or cry about,” says Truitt. “If a single judge decides that manure usage on our family farms is liable under Superfund laws, then we’re basically all out of business. Manure is a naturally occurring material. In fact, under this rational, everyone that uses the bathroom could be considered an open target for million-dollar lawsuits.”
“Superfund laws are supposed to apply to the worst toxic waste situations in the country. Ranchers are responsible stewards of the land who understand more than anyone the value of land conservation,” says John. “We applaud members of Congress for seeing the magnitude of this issue for America’s farmers and ranchers. Thanks for giving the much-needed reality check to those attempting to manipulate and misinterpret Superfund laws to their financial advantage.”
NCBA members are urging all U.S. cattle producers to contact members of Congress and ask them to speak out for American agriculture and sign on in support of this legislation in the House and Senate.