by Guy Page
The Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club is standing with the national Sierra Club petition to the Biden administration to regulate dairy farms of 500 or more cows under the Clean Air Act, due to air pollution and climate concerns. If approved, the regulations would affect about 30 Vermont farms.
The Sierra Club and 24 other national environmental organizations want the Biden administration to (among other things) “initiate a rulemaking to implement standards of performance and emission guidelines to reduce methane emissions.”
The groups “filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, calling for the Biden EPA to regulate industrial dairy and hog operations and hold them accountable for their harmful contributions to air and climate pollution,” according to an April 6 press release by an organization called Public Justice.
A Vermont Sierra Club spokesman confirmed the Montpelier-based chapter supports the national organization. For your reference, “the National Sierra Club had signed on to the letter and whenever our national club takes a position it speaks for all chapters,” Robb Kidd, Vermont Chapter Conservation Program Manager, told Vermont Daily yesterday.
An essay by Sierra Club Deputy Director Bruce Hamilton called “Food and Our Climate” explains the Sierra Club’s concern with the climate impact of cows, hogs and other agricultural animals. “As the threat of climate disruption becomes increasingly urgent, it makes sense that every source of greenhouse gas emissions should come under scrutiny. Both the reckless burning of fossil fuels and unsustainable agricultural practices are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The single greatest source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions is livestock, particularly factory-raised animals. Cattle (for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are responsible for about two-thirds of livestock emissions,” Hamilton says.
The groups’ petition is clearly aimed at large, mid-western ‘factory farms.” But while most of Vermont’s 600-plus dairy farms milk well below 500 cows, about five percent would be affected by any Clean Air regulations. According to news reports, the Dubois farm in Addison County milks about 2700 cows. The largest, Pleasant Valley Farms in Berkshire, milks about 4800. In 2018, 34 farms milked 700 or more cows.