EPA Releases Farm, Ranch & Rural Advisory Committee Recommendations
January 12th, 2012
The EPA has released a Report from its Farm, Ranch & Rural Advisory Committee that was presented to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in December 2011. The Committee, as reconstituted under the Obama Administration, held its first meeting in September 2010. Administrator Jackson charged the Committee at the meeting with preparing recommendations regarding water quality issues as they relate to agricultural production.
Key recommendations in the Report include, among others:
- EPA should develop a coordinated public engagement plan to exchange information on agricultural and environmental issues.
- EPA should ensure it has adequate staff with resources to work effectively in the field with agriculture on environmental issues, specifically Regional Agricultural Advisors, Strategic Agricultural Initiative-like specialists, and EPA-Land Grant University liaison positions in all EPA Regions.
- EPA should enable and provide resources for a multi-entity, multi-disciplinary partnership to develop and use tools and protocols for improved measurement, documentation, and verification of water quality benefits from agricultural practices and strategies, and to improve the use of resources for the development and delivery of critical best management practices.
The Report also recommended that EPA encourage and support state “certainty” programs, especially with respect to stewardship. But the Report also further addressed the issue of “regulatory certainty” for farmers and ranchers, noting that as threshold action EPA should collaborate with states and key stakeholders to develop guidelines or principles that better define and clarify what “regulatory certainty” means in the context of agriculture and water quality.
The Science Workgroup section of the Report includes examples of successful projects in which farmers and ranchers are involved in research and demonstration of the benefits of farming practices and systems on water quality. Examples include the work of the Practical Farmers of Iowa that encourages farmers to become Farmer Cooperators in a wide array of projects, for example projects that examine the environmental benefits and economics of using cover crop systems. Another example is a highly successful project in New York funded through USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. This project involved the creation of locally led partnerships across the state that demonstrated to farmers that they could significantly reduce their phosphorus applications and get customary yields in soils that tested high for phosphorus. The project led to a rapid and widespread reduction in phosphorus applications across the state.
The Committee remains chartered through this month and EPA Administrator Jackson will be responding to the Committee’s recommendations. In addition, Larry Elworth, the Chief Agricultural Counselor to Administrator Jackson, informed that Committee that the Administrator intends to reconstitute the Committee in 2012.