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Farmers let off steam about belching cows

ONE contributor to global warming, bigger than coal mines, landfills and sewage treatment plants, is being left out of efforts by the Obama administration and House Democrats to limit greenhouse gas emissions - cow burps.

Belching from America's 170 million cattle, sheep and pigs produces about one-quarter of the methane released in the United States each year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. That makes the hoofed critters the largest source of the heat-trapping gas.

In part because of an adept farm lobby campaign that equates government regulation with a cow tax, the gas that farm animals pass is exempt from legislation being considered by US Congress to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA under President Barack Obama has said it has no plans to regulate the gas, even though the agency recently included methane among six greenhouse gases it believes are endangering human health and welfare.

The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits as power plants and factories do.

The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.

Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm groups that they have no intention of regulating the gas passed by cows.

Lawmakers and farm groups are now pressing for the climate legislation to guarantee that farmers will be compensated for taking steps to reduce greenhouse gases.

That could lead to farmers getting paid if their cows pass less gas.

Research has shown that changing cattle diet can result in less gas.


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