This issue has come up before; in 2009 a federal court upheld the EPA's right to regulate farm dust when the Bush administration tried to regulate airborne soot and dust:
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council challenged EPA in 2006 over its decision to regulate coarse particulate matter -- or dust -- in rural areas, arguing that the agency had failed to show any negative health effects associated with the dust (Greenwire, Dec. 15, 2006). EPA had considered exempting farming and mining operations, but the agency ultimately decided it could not exclude particular industries.
Farmers then, and now, naturally decry the move as stifling and ridiculous. Anyone who has ever been on a farm, or on a rural gravel road, knows there's dust on a farm:
Farming and agriculture groups said the regulations would hurt their industries, affecting everything from combine dust to feedlot dust and even the dust from gravel roads.
In February 2009, the Iowa Defense Alliance wrote:
What the regulations do not do is taking into account the fact that most often farmers do not have control over the creation of this dust. For instance, when you are traveling down the highway and see a farmer planting his field in dry years you see a cloud of dust shadowing the machinery. This dust is created when the machinery stirs up the dirt during the planting process. Or perhaps it is sometime in fall, you see a combine harvesting the beans or corn. As the combine harvests the crop dust is created from the dry plant material in combination with the dirt being stirred up by the combine’s wheels. Another situation when dust is created is not necessarily related to farm work. When a vehicle travels over a dry gravel road dust is created. There really is not much that can be done to quell the production of this dust, but the EPA is insistent on regulating it nonetheless.
The latest maneuver in the debate is a letter to the EPA signed by 21 senators protesting the move to regulate farm dust as explained in a July 8, 2010, Policy Assessment related to the Clean Air Act. The new guidelines "would establish the most stringent and unparalleled regulation of dust in our nation's history."
You can read the letter here (pdf - 3 pgs).
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air wrote about this in March 2009:
Now, farmers will be held accountable when their dust moves outside of their property lines and towards towns and villages. That will impose extra cost on them depending on which way the wind blows, an excellent metaphor for Congress but a deadly imposition on a farm sector already struggling with an economic turndown and falling land prices. The compliance costs to keep dust tamped down will be enormous, and will force out the smaller farmers who can least afford the mitigation costs. It pushes the productive family farm even further into the anachronism category.
And he closes:
We need a strong agricultural sector to produce food as inexpensively as possible with maximum efficiency to keep us fed and healthy. Dust may provide some health risks, but nothing as acute as poverty and starvation, which existed in much more significant scale in the US before the Green Revolution of the 20th century.
If such a plan ever moves out of the realm of debate and into practice, it would indeed crush the agriculture industry, especially the family farm. Large corporate farms might be able to handle the extra costs, but the small farmer doesn't stand a chance.
Where do they think our food actually comes from? It just materializes in a Whole Foods on its own?
(Cross posted at Potluck )