The American Farm Bureau Federation first caused a stir with a press release dated Nov. 20 with the headline "AFBF Opposes EPA-Proposed Tax on Livestock." The statement includes comments by federation leaders condemning the proposal and presents numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing how fees would be applied.
The EPA has long denied claims it proposed or would propose a fee on livestock waste.
Rick Krause, the American Farm Bureau director of congressional relations, said Wednesday the EPA never made the proposal, but the organization interpreted language in a 2008 report proposing fees on industries that create greenhouse gases as potentially impacting livestock operations.
Even though livestock aren't mentioned in the report, the fees would apply to "stationary sources" of greenhouse gases, which Krause said his organization believes includes emissions from livestock.
"We don't think they can exempt that administratively," Krause said. "They're one lawsuit away from it becoming a reality."
Although the USDA expressed concern about a possible proposal, Krause said the possible fees were tabulated by the American Farm Bureau and did not come directly from the USDA. The press release says the fees would apply to 90 percent of the nation's dairy, beef and pork production.
So was the press release that set off a flurry of public interest misleading?
"I don't know," Krause said. "We have no way of knowing whether this (proposal) was in their minds when they did this (report.)"
Krause said the possibility of such fees on livestock is not impossible and would need action by Congress to keep it from ever happening. He said several bills have been proposed in both houses that would do just that.
EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said the agency continues to stand by its word that there is no proposal to tax livestock emissions in the works.
"I have no idea how the rumors got started," Milbourn said.