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Environment groups take aim at Minn. farmers

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Isaac Orr

After "farting cows" were identified as a climate risk to the planet in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s Green New Deal FAQ, many Minnesotans were quick to dismiss the idea that the government would begin to regulate farms based on their greenhouse gas emissions. However, that that is exactly what some Minnesota environmental groups want the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  to do.

After the MPCA approved a permit for the expansion of the Daley dairy farm in Winona County, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy sued the agency for not considering the farm’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Minnesota Court of Appeals eventually ordered MPCA to reconsider the permit.

MCEA told the Rochester Post Bulletin, "This is not an attack on farmers. This is not an attack on feedlots. This case is against the MPCA and its decision."

This claim is disingenuous. The only logical reason to sue the MPCA was to force the agency to saddle Minnesota farmers with more regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, an unprecedented expansion of farm regulations with major implications for farm families.

As someone who grew up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin where we milked 40 cows, lawsuits like these can only be described as an affront to the rural way of life.

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But, for the sake of argument, let’s look at the "climate impact" of expanding this dairy farm.

MCEA and the Land Stewardship Project claim that expanding the dairy will be the equivalent of adding 21,000 cars to Minnesota roads. If we use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assumption that the average car emits 4.6 tons of CO2 per year, we find that this expansion would add roughly 96,600 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in the state each year.

A recently released report from MPCA found that greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota totaled 154.2 million tons in 2016, the most recent year data were available. This means the dairy expansion would account for 0.0006 (0.06 percent) of Minnesota emissions each year.

Now, let’s figure out how much the Earth would potentially warm based on the same methods used by the Obama administration in its Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP would have averted 730 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. According to the climate models used by the EPA during the Obama administration, the temperature impact of this regulation would have 0.019 degrees C by 2100, which is an amount too small to measure with the most sophisticated scientific equipment.

The dairy expansion would have constituted 0.00013 (0.013 percent) of the emissions that would have been averted by the CPP, resulting in a temperature reduction of 0.0000025 degrees C by 2100. In other words, expanding this dairy farm will have zero measurable impact on global temperatures.

Furthermore, denying the permits for this dairy won’t prevent other farms in other states from adding more cows to meet the demand for milk products.

It is easy to put large farms in the crosshairs, but groups like MCEA will use this decision by the Court of Appeals as a starting point to force smaller and smaller operations to jump through red tape until every farm in the state of Minnesota is required to get a permit every time they want to buy more livestock.

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The Legislature should quickly enact legislation that prevents the MPCA from putting every one of Minnesota’s 68,822 farms under the thumb of bureaucrats in St. Paul.

If Gov. Walz is serious about his "One Minnesota" policy, this is the time to prove it to Minnesota’s farmers.

Related Topics: DAIRY
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