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Administrator Johnson, 2006 National Pork Industry Forum, Kansas City, MO

03/03/2006
    Thank you for that introduction. It is a pleasure to participate in this year’s National Pork Industry Forum.

    I want to begin by offering my sincere thanks for the leadership the National Pork Producers Council provided in the development of the recent air consent agreement. This unique collaboration creatively addresses a significant environmental challenge facing both livestock producers and the EPA.

    This once again proves that agriculture is the producer of solutions, not the creator of problems. You are great stewards of our land, and I value our work together to develop the solutions that will protect and preserve this resource for future generations.

    Instead of being viewed by some as a source of conflict, today EPA is working to be a source of cooperation. We have learned that when acting alone, mandating rules and regulations, our progress is incremental. When we work in cooperation with our partners – including the agriculture community – we can accelerate the pace and build on the environmental gains we have already achieved.

    I am also working to strengthen our relationships with our partners in the federal government – most notably with Secretary Johanns – since USDA and EPA share many of the same environmental and agriculture issues. As this list continues to grow, I value the Secretary’s friendship and counsel, and believe that our nation’s environment and our agriculture are better off because of this cooperation.

    As Administrator, I want EPA to collaborate with our partners to understand the practical implications of our actions. I want EPA to be a part of a constructive problem-solving strategy that will reach our collective economic and environmental objectives.

    The culture of environmental stewardship has been an integral part of farm families for generations. EPA would like to build on that history of caring for the land by finding innovative ways to address our air quality challenges. I know that by working together, we can develop solutions that are both economically reasonable and that preserve our shared environment.

    We see the Animal Feeding Operations Consent Agreement as a step in the right direction. By working hand-in-hand with livestock producers, more than 2,700 firms, representing over 7,000 animal feeding operations, have signed agreements for EPA's air compliance initiative.

    EPA believes that this first-of-its-kind consent agreement is the quickest, most efficient way to address the current uncertainty regarding air emissions from animal feeding operations.

    This collaboration will provide EPA and the farming community with the background needed to determine if, in fact, animal feeding operations have any Clean Air Act compliance issues. The agreement will also ensure that EPA has the data we need to make informed policy decisions based on sound science.

    I know that your bold decision to collaborate with EPA on this agreement was not an easy one. The process only got off the ground after leaders of your organization stepped forward and became involved. I am confident that your actions on this issue will yield results that are critical to the sustainability of pork production in the United States, as well as to the protection and enhancement of the environment.

    I also want to compliment you on the way you have responded to your environmental challenges in general. My Agriculture Advisor, Jon Scholl, has reported to me the great work your environment committee is doing not only to address the issues of today, but also to meet the opportunities of tomorrow.

    The implementation of the CAFO rule, your efforts on advanced manure management, and your support for sound and practical regulatory requirements are but a few of the issues you are addressing. I encourage you to keep at this progressive, pro-active approach.

    As some of you may know, at one point during my 25-year career at EPA, I headed the Agency’s pesticide office. In that position, I had the opportunity to work with farmers and ranchers on a variety of issues and I gained an appreciation for the fact that farmers operate in the same environment in which they live and raise their families.

    And it was over that time that I came to truly understand that agriculture is the producer of solutions, not the creator of problems. The work you are doing on the consent agreement is a prime example of your willingness to be a producer of solutions. You are doing what’s right for agriculture, for our environment, and for the American people.

    President Bush gave me a very clear charge when I became Administrator of EPA. He told me that he wanted to accelerate the pace of environmental protection while maintaining our nation’s economic competitiveness.

    The President’s charge is particularly important to livestock farmers. Without a strong and growing livestock industry, all of agriculture suffers. And the President and I both know that if agriculture suffers, so to does our nation’s economy. So as Administrator, I want to involve the agriculture community in making the decisions that directly affect their very livelihoods, and the livelihood of our nation’s economy.

    The pork industry and the EPA have many mutual interests. We have made great strides in addressing water quality issues involving animal production. We are actively working together to address air quality concerns. And we have begun the process of cooperating on critical issue of particulate matter. I believe the stage is set for a new, improved relationship between you and the Agency, one that is built on collaboration, not confrontation.

    Your organization is one that EPA hopes will lead agriculture’s efforts to meet the challenges of protecting our nation’s environment, and I am eager to build upon your willingness to work with us. Many of the issues we will address will be difficult, but I believe that we will be better off seated around the table together, working to find solutions to our shared challenges.

    It’s a pleasure to be here personally to say thank you for your leadership and to call for the continued development of a partnership that will improve the environment while allowing your industry to thrive.

    All of us agree that our farmland is one of our nation’s greatest national treasures. We have an obligation to pass the land down to the next generation enhanced and not depleted. By working on solutions together, EPA and the agriculture community will ensure the continued use and conservation of this natural resource.

    Thank you.