Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EPA boss says it won't regulate farm runoff in Mississippi watershed if voluntary measures work

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said Tuesday that the agency has no plans to regulate farm runoff into the Mississippi River. Jackson, "who visited two Iowa farms Tuesday with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, said she assured a gathering of agricultural leaders that the agency had no plans to impose pollution regulations like those being used to clean up Chesapeake Bay," Phillip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reports. She said voluntary measures should be given a chance to work.

"I am ruling out the need for us to move directly to a regulatory mechanism when we have folks stepping up and are willing to do the conservation measures," she told reporters after the visits. Jackson has been under fire from Republicans and agribusiness groups amid rumors the agency was going to regulate dust, pesticides and water pollution, Brasher reports. Jackson says she realizes "there's been fear, real fear, that we would take what we're doing in the Chesapeake Bay and translate it here verbatim without regard to what is going on the ground."

"Runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus from farms damages water quality in Iowa and elsewhere in the Mississippi basin and contributes to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico," Brasher writes. A recent Environmental Working Group analysis reported Iowa soil is being washed away at a much higher rate than government estimates had indicated. "We've been working at this a long time now with voluntary programs," Craig Cox, EWG's senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, said. "The problems aren't getting better and in some cases they're getting quite a bit worse." (Read more)

UPDATE, April 22: Jackson reiterated on her visit that EPA does not plan to regulate farm dust, reports Ken Anderson of Brownfield Network. Jackson debunked other "myths" about the EPA and farmers, Ag Week reports.

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