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Ranchers Have A "Cow" Over Potential Methane Tax

I'm spending today, Christmas Eve, where the cattle are lowing as they gather around a manger. Makes sense. Except apparently the cattle are warming the earth too much.

As I'm reporting, in an effort to combat greenhouse gases, the USDA has suggested the EPA potentially tax cattle ranchers and hog farmers for the methane these animals put out. Your average dairy cow puts out enough methane to equal four tons of CO2 a year, beef cows only half that (I guess they emit less because they eat less?).

The EPA says it's not going to do this, but the ranching community fears that may be a bunch of bull...methane. So it's done a pre-emptive PR strike to get everyone all worked up about this and try to stop the idea in its tracks. The American Farm Bureau Federation has even calculated potential tax numbers, taking the amount of CO2 coming out of livestock and checking it against the per-ton fees the feds charge commercial operators. The Bureau claims the tax could be $175 per head of dairy cattle, $87.50 per head of beef cattle, and $21 per hog. Again, the EPA says this isn't going to happen. Ranchers fear, however, that with a new administration, anything is possible, and they claim such a tax would slaughter them.

The first video clip is Wyoming cattle rancher Brett Crosby, whom I've interviewed before.

One more thing... I first interviewed Crosby a year ago about beef prices. In that story he was out on the range with his herd and looked straight out of Central Casting as a cowboy. Melissa Francis didn't believe he was real. And so now, a year later, when we asked Brett at the end of the interview if he had anything to add, he had something to say to Melissa. In the next clip you'll see what Melissa said a year ago, and what Crosby has to say to her now. Apparently it's been sticking in his craw.

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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