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Regulators Respond on Methane

Methane regulations have been on the minds of a group of Republican Senators led by John Thune of South Dakota, who last month wrote the heads of USDA, EPA and the Department of Energy, questioning whether or not President Barack Obama's Climate Cation Plan to lower emissions of that greenhouse gas will lead to mandatory regulations of livestock farmers.

Earlier this week, those departments responded to Thune's letter with their own, which says the plan "addresses emissions from agriculture exclusively through voluntary actions, not through regulations."

"The Strategy reflects a strong public-private partnership with the dairy industry focused on accelerating deployment of cost-effective technologies which reduce emissions across the supply chain through innovative research, as well as technical and financial assistance." the letter says. "Along with enhanced manure management practices, which continue a long tradition of environmental stewardship in the agriculture sector, biogas systems allow dairy producers to tap into a $3 billion annual market potential with farm-based energy production and additional marketable coproducts, such as nutrient separation and recovery. Those benefits are why the National Milk Producers Federation, representing 32,000 dairy farmers, applauded the release and the action set forth in the Methane Strategy."

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has also written EPA separately because he had a different set of questions, he told reporters Tuesday.

Grassley wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last month to find out how many other countries are offering incentives or require methane reduction from their dairy and livestock industry. He also wanted to know if increasing livestock production overseas could offset any benefits from a U.S. program, what percent of average U.S. dairy farms would need to install anaerobic manure digesters to cut methane emissions 25% by 2020 (the goal of the Obama plan) and the costs and payoff time for anaerobic digesters for average size dairy farms.

Grassley said he hasn't yet heard back from McCarthy but he expects to get a response.

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