Letter urges EPA to address carbon neutrality of crops

By Erin Voegele | July 13, 2020

The Biogenic CO2 Coalition on July 10 issued a statement commending a bipartisan group of four members of Congress for pressing the U.S. EPA to address the concerns of agricultural crop producers and processors in a biogenic CO2 rulemaking.

Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa; and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on June 29 asking the agency “to expeditiously provide regulatory clarity on the de minimis nature of biogenic carbon emissions generated from the processing of agricultural feedstocks such as corn, soybeans, oilseeds, and farm residues before the end of 2020.” The representatives also stressed that “current policy is a significant barrier to opportunities for economic growth across rural America, and a clarified and improved standard for biogenic CO2 from annual crops is needed in 2020.”

In the interim, the representatives said adding language offering background on the de minimus nature of biomass as a preamble to the EPA’s existing woody biomass rule might help reduce the amount of time needed to develop an annual crop standard.

“There is scientific research that supports the position that classifying biogenic emissions from crop-based feedstocks as carbon neutral, de minimis, or insignificant from a carbon accounting and regulatory perspective,” the representatives wrote. “In contrast, current EPA policy treats biogenic emissions the same as those from fossil fuels. This policy does not reflect the fact that biogenic CO2 from agricultural crops is part of a natural baseline carbon cycle by which agricultural crops absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, release it during fermentation or use, and repeat the cycle the next year. As you know, EPA regulates additional biogenic emissions from the baking sector that often present complications in permitting under the Clean Air Act.

“The current regulatory status quo hinders development of the domestic bioeconomy and creates a competitive advantage for competitors outside of the United States,” they continued. “According to USDA, our bioeconomy contributes approximately $459 billion in economic activity, and provides 4.6 million American jobs. It is critical that rural America has the ability to access new opportunities for growth when prospects in traditional markets are uncertain or declining. Farmers, processors, and manufacturers are ready and able to use our food and agricultural strengths to provide high-quality, competitive crop-derived consumer products and materials here and abroad.”

The Biogenic CO2 Coalition issued a statement July 10 thanking Davis, Peterson, Loebsak and Marshall for the letter. Members of the coalition include the American Farm Bureau Federation, Corn Refiners Association, Hemp Industries Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council of America, National Cottonseed Products Association, National Farmers Union, National Grain and Feed Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Millers’ Association, and the Plant Based Products Council.

“It’s great to see such strong support from Congress on this important issue. We need the EPA to address this regulatory barrier to help unleash jobs and investment in rural America,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the AFBF. “Farmers need certainty that the growing and processing of crops won’t be regulated the same as fossil fuels. We hope to see more members of Congress come forward to support this commonsense rulemaking.

“America’s agriculture industry greatly appreciates the strong, bipartisan support this critical issue continues to receive from Members of Congress and we encourage even more of them to make their voices heard,” said John Bode, president and CEO of the CRA.American farmers, processors, and manufacturers are poised to make significant investments into new technology, rural development, and infrastructure. This will mean more jobs in America’s heartland, but we must be able to compete fairly against foreign competitors and this unfair regulatory barrier is preventing that from happening.  We hope the EPA will listen to the bipartisan voices of our elected leaders in Congress, as well as those in the scientific community who have also called for action.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Biogenic CO2 Coalition website.