If the Chief Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has his way, EPA and agriculture will cooperate to resolve environmental issues in the future. He told a gathering of ag business leaders gathered in Indianapolis Thursday that he wants cooperation, not confrontation, as EPA and agriculture work together.
The two sides haven't always seen eye to eye in the past. Sometimes misinformation and/or disinformation get in the way. Stephen Johnson's message and reassurance was timely, since the forum where he spoke, the Grow America Project, is all about figuring out better ways to get an accurate message about agriculture out to consumers. The project initiated with seed money from the Indiana Department of Agriculture, but is intended to be a national effort.
"We realize farmers and their families live in the environment where they farm," he says. "We want them to be involved in (voicing opinions) about regulations that affect them."
Those regulations include confined animal feeding operation rules, known as CAFOs, and air particulate regulations. EPA recently backed off proceeding with air quality regulations for agriculture until researchers had an opportunity to determine the base level of air particulate matter.
"What we want is for EPA to collaborate and cooperate with agriculture so we can figure out the right course of action," he continues. "We have more tools in our toolbox than just a hammer, and we need to use them."
The biggest winner when cooperation occurs is the environment that EPA is empowered to protect, the Chief believes. "The environment is better off when we sit down at the table together. Farmland is one of our great national treasures. We need to do what we can to leave it in good shape for the next generation, and not deplete it instead."
His remarks about the next generation were appropriate since the National FFA is also holding its convention in Indianapolis this week. The convention moved from Louisville to Indianapolis this year.
"We can't do this job on our own (as EPA)," he adds. "What we do to protect the environment and the economy at the same time needs to be built on collaboration, not confrontation."
One of the win-win situations for ag and the environment is the renewable fuel arena, he says. While providing great economic benefits for farmers, it will also benefit the environment at the same time.
"Air is cleaner now than it was three decades ago and it will become cleaner yet," Johnson says. Renewable fuels is part of the answer to that strategy, he stresses.
If the amount of renewable fuels is nearly doubled over the next few short years, as Congress mandated, it will be like removing the emission of greenhouse gases from 6 million cars, he notes. That's twice the number of cars registered in Indiana alone.
"Renewable fuels are good for the environment," he concludes.