Dust, Pesticides and Water Addressed at Symposium

Focus on regulation versus legislation as to what is better for agriculture.

Published on: Jun 24, 2011

Environmental Protection Agency Agricultural Counselor Larry Elworth says the agency should know later this summer if tougher regulation of coarse particulate matter, or dust, is warranted.

In remarks at an American Agri-Women symposium in Washington entitled "Regulate or Legislate - Which is Better for Agriculture" Elworth explained that EPA is required to review national ambient air quality standards every five years and is currently reviewing all available science on the issue.

"We recently responded with a final policy document in which we said we believe that the current science would support either retaining or altering, revising the standard," Elworth said. "I know that's been a huge concern for people and I know people would like us to resolve this quickly."

Farm and commodity groups often cite the potential for more stringent dust standards as a prime example of federal regulatory overreach.

The EPA ag adviser insisted there are no plans to implement a zero-spray drift policy, and he offered assurance that any new drift rules would be clear, fair, sane and enforceable.

"For the past six months we've been engaging stakeholders and had people present proposals to us," Elworth said. "We don't intend to be finished with it until there is a fair amount of agreement on what the language on pesticide labels should look like so people know what their responsibilities are and that the law can be enforced fairly."

Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory regulations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, argued that congressional gridlock has enabled EPA to greatly expand its jurisdiction over air and water. He asserted that an EPA-ordered cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay would lead to a 20% reduction in crop production in the multi-state watershed by 2025 and serves as a template for similar rulemaking mischief in other parts of the country.

"Larry said they're not going to use it in the Mississippi River or any other watershed," Parrish said. "You know what, EPA is paying contractors right now to develop the same kind of models  that they use in the Chesapeake Bay for the Mississippi River watershed."

Jere White, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association Commission, gave EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson credit for reaching out to agriculture since the mid-term elections. He says farmers and ranchers should engage her agency and make them aware of the true issues because though EPA doesn't live in their environment, they have a lot over what farmers and ranchers do.