By Carrie Vicenta Meadows, Agricultural Advisor to EPA Administrator Wheeler
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to ensure clean air, water and land in the United States. As the Agriculture Advisor to Administrator Andrew Wheeler, I act as the primary advocate for agriculture at EPA Headquarters.
Now more than ever, we need to elevate the voices of rural America. EPA recognizes farmers and ranchers as the first environmentalists and faithful stewards of the land, and we support their hard work to implement conservation practices on their farms that improve water quality for all.
In June, Administrator Wheeler reinstated the Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee, with full membership of 33 members who represent over 28 states. The role of this Committee is to provide independent policy advice, information, and recommendations to the Administrator on a range of environmental issues and policies that are of importance to agriculture and rural communities. However, we understand that it takes more than a committee for EPA to meaningfully engage our agricultural partners.
That’s why each of the ten EPA regions has a Regional Agriculture Advisor to be our boots on the ground working directly with producers and listening to agricultural stakeholders. The Advisors are tasked with advancing the work of EPA’s program offices – such as Water, Air, and Pesticides – informed by the perspectives of the local agricultural community. EPA’s Agriculture Advisors are the key connectors between EPA and stakeholders across agricultural and rural communities to help find meaningful solutions to local challenges.
One example is the ongoing efforts to improve water quality in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya river basins (MARB) by reducing excess nutrient loads. EPA supports state nutrient reduction strategies, and Regional Agricultural Advisors share information on market-based approaches that states and localities can use to engage producers and accelerate progress, such as Water Quality Trading.
EPA is working with producers and stakeholders in a variety of ways to enhance water quality and ecosystem services at the watershed scale. Here are some examples of what partnerships with us can look like and what we can accomplish together in the MARB region:
- Funding to increase practice adoption: In Mississippi, the Long Creek-Fannegusha Creek is a partnership success story. Collective efforts between USDA NRCS, the Holmes County soil and water conservation district, local producers, and EPA’s Nonpoint Source program have expanded the implementation of conservation practices in the watershed, leading to reductions in agricultural impacts from sediment and nutrients and improved water quality. Similarily, in Louisana, the state’s Nonpoint Source Program, which receives funds from EPA, is working with rice and soybean farmers to utilize new practices to reduce sediment loss from fields, thereby reducing the nutrient loads to receiving waters.
- Supporting partner networks and their actions: Yahara Pride in Dane County, Wisconsin is a partnership between municipalities, farmers, and environmental groups to coordinate strategic efforts made to meet the state’s phosphorus regulatory requirements. These efforts, supported by EPA, will ultimately reduce contributions to the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Zone.
- Research to advance collective goals: In Iowa, EPA Region 7 and the EPA Office of Research and Development are collaborating with state stakeholders to examine ecosystem service benefits and tradeoffs related to water quality and wetlands in agricultural landscapes.
In addition to supporting partner efforts, EPA Agricultural Advisors hold outreach events to provide information to the general public and agricultural stakeholders. For example, we hosted regional workshops to train people to identify, report, and prevent Harmful Algal Blooms and to share the latest research on the causes of HABs and what triggers the production of toxins.
Our work to protect the environment is connected across all regions and all sectors of life. A goal of mine is to ensure that everyone feels comfortable approaching EPA and knows that we are here to help cultivate innovative environmental solutions that work for rural America.
Header image credit: U.S. EPA
About Carrie Vicenta Meadows
Meadows is the Agriculture Advisor to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The role of the Agriculture Advisor’s Office is acting as a primary advocate and liaison for U.S. agriculture at EPA. Before coming to EPA, Carrie is a 16-year veteran of Capitol Hill where she worked extensively on agricultural policy. Carrie is a native of Lynchburg, Virginia, and completed her undergraduate degree at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
This post was written for The Confluence, a quarterly newsletter for watershed leaders in the Mississippi Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB). Do you lead watershed work somewhere in the MARB? Subscribe here>>