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South Dakota Department of Agriculture

523 East Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3182
Telephone: (800) 228-5254 or (605) 773-5425
Fax: 605-773-5926
posted to KBC 8/8/04


What can you say when the methane police show up?

This is a story about a West River rancher’s first encounter with federal methane emission enforcement agents.  The old rancher standing on his porch raised the brim of his hat with his forefinger and squinted at the sight of a federal Suburban pulling into his yard.

“What can I do for you fellows?” he asked as the agents exited their vehicle.

“Good morning sir.  Are the owner of this farm?” one asked.

“This ain’t no farm son, but it is MY RANCH.  What do you want?”

“Well sir, our remote sensing data indicates the methane emissions from this RANCH exceed the limits allowed for an agricultural area of its size.  We are here to remove the source of the excess emissions.”

“It appears that you have twelve more ruminants than is permissible under the guidelines for methane emission by enteric fermentation.”

“I know what a ruminant is, but what’s this fermentation you are talking about?”

“Well sir, as you may know agricultural sources are allocated nine million metric tons of methane each year.  Enteric fermentation, or cow burps and flatulence if you will, is a sub-source, having an allocation of two thirds of that nine million metric tons.  Being the primary agricultural source, we strictly enforce it.  I’m afraid you must get rid of twelve ruminants on this ranch.”

“That’s a very interesting theory you have there about cows.  Have you ever heard a cow pass gas?”

“No, sir.  I can’t say that I have.”

“Well son, let me ask you this, since you federals own or control most of the wetlands in this country.  I hear they produce a lot of methane. What’s the limit on them?”

“I don’t believe there is any.”

“What about your burning forests?  I hear that a two-thousand-acre fire produces more than fifty tons of air pollution.  What are the methane limits on your fires?”

“There aren’t any.  But, even if those things emit more methane than all the ruminants put together, I am afraid it doesn’t change what we must do, and it doesn’t solve your problem.”

“Alright, as they say, ‘you can’t fight the government.’  You wait right here.”

About an hour later the rancher pulled back into his yard, got out and opened the gate on his trailer.  “What is this?” the agent asked.  “That, son, is twelve ruminants removed from my ranch on this date by order of the federal government.  Now, you take those five elk and seven deer and don’t come back until government employees are not allowed to eat beans.”


The only way to guarantee failure is to not try.
Larry Gabriel

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