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In Response: Dairy Farm Expansion Will Have Zero Significant Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In a recent AgriNews editorial entitled “Significant Environmental Impacts Must Be Identified,” Vance and Bonnie Haugen claimed my article detailing how regulating greenhouse gas emissions from a dairy farm in Minnesota would produce zero measurable environmental benefits was baseless, irresponsible, and disingenuous, but never once did the authors offer a shred evidence to support their claim.

The authors stared by calling my article a distraction from the current issues farmers face, but my article was not a distraction, it was a warning that this list of challenges will only get longer if groups like the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) are successful in forcing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to regulate greenhouse gases from Minnesota farms.

Unlike traditional challenges, like fluctuations in crop prices, global demand, or the weather, which are uncontrollable, regulating greenhouse gas emissions from Minnesota farms would be a completely arbitrary and onerous Green New Deal-styled regulations imposed by bureaucrats in St. Paul on Minnesota farmers. These regulations would make it harder to farm but yield exactly zero measurable environmental benefit.

The authors asserted that adding this farm would have a significant environmental impact on greenhouse gas emissions, but nothing could be further than the truth. As I stated in my article, the expansion of the proposed dairy would add 96,600 tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. While this may sound like a lot, it would constitute just a tiny fraction of Minnesota’s annual emissions, at 0.06 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions are a global phenomenon and they mix evenly in the atmosphere. That means if the authors wish to argue the greenhouse gas emissions from this farm would have “significant environmental impacts,” they must look at the emissions in a global context. The recently-released Global Carbon Report estimates global carbon dioxide emissions would be 43.1 billion in 2019, meaning this farm expansion would account for a microscopic 0.0002 percent of global emissions.

If the authors want to have a reasonable discussion about the high hydraulic conductivity of karst geology and the additional precautions that should be taken to mitigate environmental impacts on water quality in these areas, that is a perfectly reasonable discussion to have, but pretending that the bedrock geology of the areas would have any impact on the way this proposed dairy expansion would impact greenhouse gases is either delusional or disingenuous.

The problem is groups like LSP and MCEA is that they are unlikely to ever be satisfied until they are successful in imposing greenhouse gas emissions regulations on farms of any size. Of course, they will start with larger, more controversial farms, but the plain fact of the matter is that no farmer in Minnesota should be forced to jump through this hoop regardless of the size of their operation.

This is why this legislative session; lawmakers should make it a top priority to pass a law explicitly prohibiting any state agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from the farms that put the food on our tables. If they fail to accomplish this, it could force Minnesota farmers a lot of grief, for exactly zero measurable environmental good.