Instead of agricultural players being the last to know about new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules, the national agency hopes to bring agricultural stakeholders in earlier to better address environmental needs. That's the sentiment expressed in an interview today (Monday) with Jon Scholl, counselor to the administrator for agricultural policy at EPA.
In the past, many EPA-passed rules or laws didn't have producer-level agriculture in mind, explains Scholl. After several years go by, the impact on agriculture is realized and EPA is "behind the eight ball," Scholl notes.
The new policy initiative announced by EPA outlines ways for engaging the agricultural community through collaboration and cooperation to solve problems earlier in the rulemaking process. Issues high on the list include livestock wastes, particularly with air quality; water quality; and renewable fuel.
Scholl says EPA recognizes the best way to avoid trouble is by talking to farmers who see problems on a day-to-day basis. "Farmers do bring a lot of common sense to problem solving," he says, adding that EPA wants to tap into that knowledge base and make better rules and regulations that fit agriculture's role of taking care of the environment.
For example, instead of taking a more traditional approach, the EPA is collaboratively addressing emissions standards at ethanol plants. Scholl says EPA currently works with the ethanol industry and tries to make sure a fair and effective policy is established while ensuring EPA isn't inhibiting growth in the industry and still protecting the environment.
Scholl advises producers to discuss potential problems with local and state environmental leaders at all stages of the process, but most importantly at the beginning. "And part of my job here at headquarters will be to make sure we're thinking of agriculture and our impact right from the beginning," he concludes.
More information on the National Strategy for Agriculture.