"Farmers Fear Tighter Limits on Dust"

Republicans in Congress are whipping up fear among Midwest farmers that EPA will burden them with tighter dust-control regulations. The only problem is that it isn't true.

"Arizona farmer Kevin Rogers has a new routine in the morning: Checking the wind. If it’s too high, he’s required to park his tractors and combines for the day to keep from kicking up dust that’s long been a major cause of air pollution in the Phoenix area.

Republicans in Congress claim that farmers in the Midwest could face similar restrictions if the Obama administration tightens national limits on how much dust can be in the air.

'It’s a difficult thing when the government is in the middle of everything we’re doing,' said Rogers, who farms 7,000 acres outside Phoenix and owns interests in partnerships that have collected millions of dollars in cotton and grain subsidies over the past decade.

'It affects our operation daily, just the fact that I have to go out and evaluate what’s going on' with the wind, he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t proposed any change in its standards, nor are communities in the Midwest in danger of violating current standards. But the dust issue has become a major feature in GOP efforts to blame the nation’s economic stagnation on excessive government regulations. Democrats say it’s a phony issue being used to influence rural voters.

EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said the agency is still reviewing its dust regulations but has “no plans to put stricter standards in place.”"

Philip Brasher reports for the Gannett Washington Bureau in the Des Moines Register September 17, 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011