Rural America and agriculture have a great story to tell. In my experience, a good number of the problems we face in the regulatory environment are largely caused by regulators not understanding the true rural picture. When particulate regulations are being developed, researchers set up monitors in major cities and measure levels of particles. They compare the health impacts of particulate by doing things like looking at hospital visits and asthma rates for various cities and different populations, then comparing these incidences to local particulate levels. Only rarely is any data available outside of major population centers.
The problem is that particulate found in New York City air is very different from rural particles. Theirs is mainly made up of emissions from diesel engines, tire rubber, brake lining dust and things of that nature. Rural particulate is mainly dirt. With just that basic information, the average person could see where urban particulate is likely to be completely different from rural particulate from a health standpoint. While easy to understand, there is no real way under the rules to treat one differently from the other. The end result is that we are all covered by the same rule. This is just one example of many.
The ever-increasing fuel economy standards for automobiles are fine for the Prius drivers in Washington or Chicago where emissions from cars can be a major part of their air quality problems. In rural areas, drivers are more affected due to the conditions in which they are generally operating, yet emissions from vehicles are generally not a concern in the rural environment.
As the rural population continues to be a smaller percentage of the overall population, it becomes more important for us to understand where our city cousins are coming from, and to be able to explain to them how our environment is different. If we don’t educate the general public about our issues, who is going to?
Kelley Green, director of technical services for the Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association, contributed this article. Contact him at email@example.com or by telephone at (512) 476-8388.