In voicing opposition to Democrat-led efforts regarding federal infrastructure legislation moving through Congress, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin has revived a concern long-held by those in the agriculture industry: a tax on methane.
The push for a $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” bill has some on the other side of the aisle expressing concern that needed infrastructure legislation will be conflated with what Mullin calls “a blank check to take our country into socialism.”
The House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this month continued tweaking that legislation, including as it addresses the issue of climate change. They approved language regarding a methane fee levied on “pollution from the oil and gas industry above specific intensity thresholds.”
A spokeswoman for Mullin said Republicans on that committee tried for an amendment to ensure cattle operations would not be subject to the requirements; the effort was defeated as moot based on the current language of the bill.
But does the proposal actually equate to a methane tax on the cattle industry?
Those reading Mullin’s now-widely shared commentary could interpret it that way, but the congressman’s spokeswoman said Tuesday in an email to Tulsa World: “This is what could happen if the methane fee were applied to agriculture. Right now the text of the bill only specifies the oil and gas industry.”
She added that the language leaves room for interpretation as to whether the government’s reach in methane regulations could later be expanded.
Mullin may be concerned after Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Texas, noted in committee that agriculture is generally known to be a larger source of methane emissions than the energy industry. In his commentary, he says fees will “run ranchers out of business,” and he even said various per-cow costs might be levied.
The thousands of people sharing the congressman’s commentary seem to be misinterpreting the federal infrastructure bill to include an “animal agriculture tax,” repeating a lobbyist group’s analysis that ranchers could be charged $2,600 per head of cattle.
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is produced by cattle and other livestock; however, animal agriculture is not actually the leading cause of emissions.
The question of whether the industry is most to blame for methane’s significant contribution to greenhouse gases has come up before. Since at least 2008, the possibility of a methane tax on livestock has been raised, though serious action has never been taken.
Mullin spokeswoman Meredith Blanford in an email responded largely with information sent to the congressman by the lobbying agency representing U.S. agriculture, the American Farm Bureau.
“Making food more expensive for those that can least afford it shouldn’t be advocated by any government entity. But that is exactly what is being proposed by a methane tax,” the statement reads. Blanford confirmed that the per-cow estimates Mullin shared in his commentary also came from an analysis by the American Farm Bureau.
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