Today, Congressmen Scott Murphy (NY-20) and Bill Owens (NY-23) called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to accept the proposed 2009 rule to exempt dairy farmers from "spill" regulations. Murphy and Owens sent a letter to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA, urging her to accept the proposed rule exempting dairy farmers from the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) regulations. Without this rule change, dairy farms in Upstate New York would be required to develop and implement plans to handle milk spills, because current EPA regulations treat milk as an oil because of its high animal fat content. Murphy and Owens, the two New York delegation members on the House Agriculture Committee, called on the EPA to accept the proposed rule after a more than 18 month delay.
"Dairy farmers are already hurting in these tough economic times," said Rep. Murphy. "Upstate New York has a rich tradition of dairy farming, and these regulations will hinder our dairy farms' ability to grow and succeed. That's why I am calling on the EPA to accept these proposed rules to exempt them. While the current rules were well-intentioned, we cannot treat our farms like oil companies, and they should not face this additional burden. Spilled milk should not be treated the same as spilled oil."
"Adding additional costs such as a preventative spill plan into the budgets of our community farmers would only serve to cripple our dairy farmers," said Rep. Owens. "At a time when we are trying to support our farmers and ensure that they are paid fairly for the milk they produce, including them in this EPA regulation would hamstring our effort to provide our family farms with the resources they need to thrive, expand and create jobs in Upstate New York."
Without the proposed rule change, dairy farms with 1,320 gallons of milk stored would have to develop a spill response plan -- in Upstate New York, the majority of farms meet this threshold. Farms that store below 10,000 gallons of milk could self certify their plan, whereas farms that store over 10,000 gallons of milk would have to have their plans certified by an engineer. This burdensome and costly process could cost thousands of dollars for each farm -- a costly process that dairy farms do not need. SPCC rules were revised recently, in 2002, but the EPA still considers milk a non-petroleum oil because of its high butterfat content. Dairy farmers have been working with legislators to push for the EPA to finalize the rules to clarify that they do not apply to milk.
Because milk is already highly regulated for both safety and quality at the state and federal level, it is highly unlikely that a milk tank would leak. In order to meet existing federal and state standards, milk must be stored in tanks that go through a rigorous permit process and are subject to inspection.
On Tuesday, Congressman Murphy also announced he was co-sponsoring H.R. 5426, bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Candice Miller (MI-10) to require the EPA Administrator Jackson to finalize a proposed rule to amend the SPCC rules to tailor and streamline the requirements for the dairy industry. Currently the legislation has 20 co-sponsors. By passing this bill, the EPA would be required to accept the rules, moving the process forward to help struggling dairy farmers.
Rep. Murphy continued, "We need to exempt our dairy farmers as quickly as possible from the SPCC rules. I've joined with Representative Miller to co-sponsor this vital bipartisan legislation to protect them. While I am hopeful that the EPA can accept this proposed rule quickly, I also wanted to try other avenues that might move quicker. I look forward to working with Administrator Jackson and the EPA to exempt our dairy farmers quickly."
The letter that Representatives Murphy and Owens sent to Administrator Jackson is below:
July 28, 2010
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Jackson:
We write to you today in support of a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that was introduced in January of 2009 to exempt dairy farms from the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) rules. The original rules were meant to target massive oil spills and other toxic substances, not accidents involving milk spills at dairy farms. While these rules were well intentioned, we should not treat our farms like oil companies and impose this additional burden on an already-struggling industry.
According to current EPA regulations, milk is considered non-petroleum oil because of its high butterfat content. Without clarification, which the proposed EPA rule would provide, this has the potential to subject dairy producers like the small, family owned farms in Upstate New York to implement costly spill prevention plans that could be devastating in this economy.
As members of the House Agriculture Committee, we support the proposed efforts to provide an exemption to dairy farmers to ensure that any milk storage containers that meet state and federal sanitary standards will be exempt from the SPCC. As you know, milk is already heavily regulated to ensure its quality and safety, and dairy farms' facilities must undergo rigorous inspection. While it is important to ensure safety and prevent environmental hazards, we feel that additional regulations pose an unnecessary burden to dairy farmers in this tough economic time.
Dairy farmers in Upstate New York and the rest of the United States are struggling to make ends meet as milk prices remain unstable and operating costs continue to rise. We write today to urge you to move forward and approve the proposed rules to exempt dairy farms from the EPA's SPCC rules.
We look forward to hearing from you, and working with you in the near future.