Well, maybe that dustup is settled.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of just about anyone running for office, has officially stated in letters to two U.S. senators that it is not, as rumored, expanding its present air quality standards to take in agricultural dust.
A statement released by the agency Monday said: “EPA hopes that this action finally puts an end to the myth that the agency is planning to expand regulations of farm dust.”
It’s doubtful that the issue will, in fact, come to a complete rest.
For one thing, EPA has the authority to expand its air quality rules to agriculture. Attempts through the federal courts to have farming and mining excluded from the clean air authority given to the agency have failed so far. But the issue was already working its way into campaigns on both sides of the aisles, and it would be nearly impossible for the agency to crack down on farm dust in a political climate that is heating up not from industrial pollutants, but from political posturing.
It’s the sort of issue that you often find thriving on the Internet years after its demise. We’ve little doubt that in the next few months, there will be a round of Internet alerts on this issue that likely will purport a number of “facts”:
(1) This EPA farm dust crackdown was at the behest of whichever political party the email sender opposes;
(2) The rules that are at the precipice of being enforced will cripple U.S. farming, making Americans totally dependent on food from foreign sources;
(3) The “mainstream media” have totally ignored this critical issue because they are in cahoots with the government;
(4) You can only head this calamity off by voting the right way,
What had been concerning farming interests was the potential impact that a crackdown on dust generated by agricultural activities could have. Anyone who has lived in our region for any length of time knows that harvesting crops such as peanuts and cotton, combined with a good wind, will lead to dust in the air. And for those who are allergic to a certain crop, that certainly can be a health issue. But it’s hard to see how the entire method of harvesting could ever be changed so that no dust particles get into the air. If technology’s available and affordable for harvest dust-free, it’s as secret as the work of the Congressional budget supercommittee.
Much of this worry over farm rules could have been avoided had the agency simply made its intentions known months ago. Government agencies, however, often react too slowly to publicly address concerns, with that silence feeding the anxiety.