says farm dust requires regulation
Santana, Capital Press 2/26/09
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Nothing says summer in Iowa like a cloud
of dust behind a combine.
But what may be a fact of life for farmers is a cause for concern
to federal regulators, who are refusing to exempt growers from new
It's left some farmers feeling bemused and more than a little
"It's such a non-commonsense idea that you can keep dust within a
property line when the wind blows," said Sen. Charles Grassley, a
member of the Senate Agriculture Committee who still farms in
Under rules imposed in 2006, rural areas would be kept to the same
standards as urban areas for what the Environmental Protection
Agency calls "coarse particulate matter" in the air.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork
Producers Council had petitioned the government to provide an
exemption to farmers. They argued that evidence of harm caused by
dust in rural areas hasn't been determined.
But the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington ruled Tuesday
that the EPA had already provided the evidence necessary to
determine farm dust "likely is not safe."
Michael Formica, a lawyer for the pork council, said this means
farmers now face the daunting task of proving a negative, in
essence, having to prove that the dust is not harmful.
Formica said his and other groups will consider a further appeal.
Farmers said they will be hard-pressed to meet the standards.
In a letter sent Wednesday to the EPA, Grassley wrote that
compliance would be impossible because of the dust produced in
farmers' day-to-day activities.
Grassley also has noted that because many rural roads are not
paved, particulate readings could be affected by wind gusts that
"After all, God decides when the wind blows, not Chuck Grassley,"
But the EPA said the regulation was overdue.
Every five years, the Clean Air Act requires the agency to review
the newest scientific information and recommend changes to its
In 2006, the EPA determined larger particles in the air than
previously thought were a danger to the public. The increased
threshold covered air mixes that occur in rural areas.
EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said the changes are not just a
matter of regulating dust. They serve the public's well-being and,
regardless of whether someone lives in a rural or urban area, the
threshold for unsafe levels of dust in the air must remain
"It's health-based," she said. "We don't look at a particular
industry. The goal is to protect public health."
When counties reach "non-attainment" levels, it becomes a state's
responsibility to bring the county back into acceptable levels.
Milbourn said various options exist for states, such as
retrofitting buses that run on diesel engines.
But farmers insist the regulation will affect their operations and
eventually their bottom lines. And they said unlike fixing a bus,
they have few options for limiting dust from their fields and
Roger Zylstra, a director with the Iowa Corngrowers Association,
said if left alone, farmers can compete worldwide. But regulation
could impede their success.
He said there seems to be a disconnect between farmers and
"Many of the people that are making the rules, it feels like they
really don't know what (farming) issues are," said Zylstra, a
Lynnville resident who has worked on a farm for 35 years.
Zylstra said it's hard not to get frustrated.
"We think we've met the demands that have been put upon us and lo
and behold, we have new and even more stringent demands. It seems