Lisa Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, put her, and the Obama administration's, best foot forward in the name of cooperation when she addressed last week's USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.
"Simply put, EPA's mission is to protect human health and the environment," she states. "The agricultural community is first and foremost a partner in EPA's mission.
All in one family. Jackson punctuated her comments with a story about the free-spirited brother in the family. For Christmas, or family gatherings, he routinely phones late from an airport or bus station. Somebody has to go pick him up.
After dinner, he and everyone else in the family play cards, relax, talk and always have a good time. Eventually it's time to go home.
Inevitably, everyone in the family knows the free-spirited brother will not have a way to get home. He knows that everyone is probably ready for him to go home. He's family, but let's face it, the familial bond is all about going home.
He knows that if the family wants him to go home, someone will have to help him along. Inevitably someone picks up the mantle of responsibility, usually buys him a ticket, drives him somewhere, puts him on that bus, that plane, that train and makes sure he gets home. And it's well worth it because that's what a family does for its members.
"I tell you that story to illustrate that we know that you all who live in the regulatory world with us sometimes see the EPA the way the family sees the brother," says Jackson.
Common goals. "As members of a family we really are after the same thing," says Jackson. "Clean water is not only important for drinking and for your family's health. It is literally the life blood of agriculture. I would bet that every farmer can identify with wanting clean water."
Everyone as a human being, a parent and a member of society finds value in having land that's free from pollution and being able to assure people that we have a handle on toxic substances and risk and risk assessment and residues and all those things. "Our lives and your business depend on it," she says.
Cooperation pays. EPA has much regulatory authority. Jackson takes her role as regulator very seriously.
"So to the extent that we can go home and leave you alone, we need your help," stresses Jackson. "We will need help and partnership to deal with the issues we face.
"We need partnerships to actually get to the point where we can leave the table and say, 'Okay, we'll catch you next time,' because so much of what we do does not lend itself to plain old regulation. It lends itself to partnership," she concludes.
Unfinished business. Jackson made no mention of concentrated animal feeding operations, hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, combine dust in fields at grain harvest time or bovine flatulence taxes.
Those remain topics for another day.