Washington

Surprise! Farm Bureau rep gives thumbs-up to EPA chief

Hey, I like that guy form the U.S. EPA. That’s something I thought I would never say!

After my recent trip to Washington, D.C., with county Farm Bureau presidents from all over Ohio, I can say that is a true statement. And “that guy” is the 14th administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, who addressed us along with Farm Bureau members from Alabama, Iowa and Missouri, who also were visiting Washington.

My only other encounter with the U.S. EPA was on a similar Presidents’ Trip three years ago soon after the Lake Erie water issues in Toledo had hit the fan. We were looking forward to learning something new and hopefully getting some answers that would help us when we returned to Ohio. Question after question was met with the response, “That’s not my area of expertise, I cannot answer that.” Talk about frustration.

But not this trip. It was like a breath of fresh air. He began by telling us there has been a change in attitude and perspective at EPA. The role of the agency is not to be aggressive and adversarial as it has been in the past but is moving toward a more cooperative nature, forging a partnership with the agricultural industry to achieve great things for the environment.

The change is evident. On Jan. 31, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers announced they were withdrawing and rewriting the Waters of the United States rule. To give a little history, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and the law was sent to the EPA to come up with the rule to enforce it. EPA first proposed the rule in 2015 and it was enacted under President Obama. These were really bad rules that were far more reaching than the intent of the law, and an extreme infringement of personal property rights.

And according to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, it “would have put a stranglehold on ordinary farming and ranching by treating dry ditches, swales and low spots on farm fields just like flowing waters.”

The rule-making process works well as long as it is followed. Mr. Pruitt assured us they would use the process and the new rule will be clear and concise. Mr. Pruitt has the education and real-life experience to lead the U.S. EPA.

As a lawyer specializing in constitutional law, he served eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate and then became the Oklahoma attorney general.  According to the U.S. EPA website, “He has dedicated his career to creating policy that serves the people. He strongly believes that environmental law, policy and progress are all based on cooperation between the states, cooperation between the states and EPA, and cooperation between regulators and the public.”

He left me , and most of those in attendance, encouraged and full of hope that his attitude and perspective will pour down through his agency. He left us with this:  “Environmental stewardship and production agriculture can and should go hand-in-hand.”

I’ll say it again, I like that guy from the U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt.

Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.