Grower-leaders from NAWG and organizations representing corn, soybean, rice, cotton and sorghum growers met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week for an unprecedented dialogue about farmers’ relationship with EPA and their concerns about pending environmental regulations.
NAWG President Jerry McReynolds traveled to Washington for the meeting, held Thursday morning, which NAWG Director of Government Affairs for Environmental Policy Mark Gaede also attended.
The hour-long session covered a range of topics, including language of a recent spray drift proposal and concerns about the need for additional permitting due to a Sixth Circuit Court decision handed down last year.
On the spray drift issue, growers asserted that changing regulatory language from stipulating possible effects “would” occur to “could” or “may” occur was improper for crop protection products approved under the law and could make producers venerable to lawsuits. Jackson indicated to the growers that these concerns would be reflected in the Agency’s final determination.
Growers also heard details from Jackson about what process EPA is considering to meet the requirements of the Sixth Circuit decision, made in the case of National Cotton Council of America v. EPA. That case concluded pesticide discharge is a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation and permitting under the Clean Water Act, meaning producers could potentially be required to obtain additional permitting for every crop protection application. The logistics of carrying this out are harrowing for EPA, state agencies and producers alike, and the meeting this week gave the growers in attendance a chance to emphasize to the Administrator how quickly crop protection decisions must be made on a working farm.
The group also briefly discussed climate change legislation, which could be considered by the Senate this summer as part of a sector-by-sector approach that would use a proposal from Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as its agriculture piece.
No one in attendance remembered a similar meeting between agricultural producers and EPA officials. The idea for Thursday’s session surfaced out of conversations at the 2010 Commodity Classic with Vilsack and members of his staff, who had a chance to hear first-hand from farmers about their level of concern regarding the cumulative impact of the EPA’s activities on their operations. After Classic concluded, Vilsack contacted Jackson to suggest the meeting, which EPA hosted.
Both the growers and the Administration officials committed to continuing the dialogue and holding similar meetings in the future, either informally or as part of a grower advisory group to EPA.
More about the meeting outcomes is available in an audio update from McReynolds, accessible at www.wheatworld.org/audio-gallery/.