Georgia farmers say livestock greenhouse tax no laughing matter - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Georgia farmers say livestock greenhouse tax no laughing matter

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

December 5, 2008

SUMTER COUNTY, GA (WALB) -  An emissions tax on livestock to fight global warming.

It sounds like a joke, but South Georgia livestock owners don't find it funny.

The Enviornmental Protection Agency is considering how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

One proposal would put an annual tax on cows and pigs for their gas releases.

Farmers say that could put them out of business.

Adam Graft's Leatherbrook Hostein's Farms has 1000 producing dairy cows. Under the proposed EPA tax plan, Graft could be taxed as much as $175 per cow every year.  Taxing livestock for their greenhouse emissions.

 Graft said "Nobody could stand that. Everybody wold go out of business."

The EPA says in the United States livestock are the third largest source of methane in human related activities, also producing nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Since July the EPA has been collecting public opinion on their proposals to fight greenhouse gas. Farmers are raising the alarm what this tax could do to the American food supply.

Graft said "Food production would shift out of the United States. So we could be dependent on foreign countries for our food as well as our oil."

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin labels the idea as "silly."

Irvin said "We'll bring suit against them if they start this stuff. We got to have milk to drink, beef to eat, pork chops, bacon. That's the American diet."

Farmers point out dairy cows have already improved their carbon footprint. In the 1940-s there were an estimated 25 million dairy cows in the United States. Today there are only 9. 2 million, but milk production has increased from 118 billion pounds of milk a year to 180 billion.

Remember this is just a proposal, and the EPA does not explain how the tax money would be used to lower greenhouse gases.   But Graft says a 175 dollar a cow tax would cripple animal agriculture and produce the final result.   Graft said "Basically less animals in the United States would be the only way it would work."

And that's no joke during a recession in a state where agriculture is the number one industry.

The proposal could levy taxes of $87 per beef cow and $20 per hog.

Commissioner Irvin said that would be close to what farmers profit off those animals.