Midwest Farm Bureaus meet with Region 5 EPA

Farm Bureaus, agency officials discussed water quality, nutrient management, livestock and pesticide registration.

Illinois Farm Bureau Vice President Brian Duncan, District 3 Director Jeff Kirwan and Lauren Lurkins, IFB’s director of natural and environmental resources, joined five other Midwest state Farm Bureau farmer leaders and staff during a meeting with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of U.S. EPA Region 5)

By Deana Stroisch

More than 15 farmer leaders from six Midwestern Farm Bureaus, including Illinois, met last week with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp and her senior staff.

The four-and-a-half-hour meeting in Chicago continued Illinois Farm Bureau’s yearlong effort to build relationships with EPA officials.

The meeting brought state Farm Bureau environmental staff and farmer leaders together from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. IFB Vice President Brian Duncan, District 3 Director Jeff Kirwan and Lauren Lurkins, IFB’s director of natural and environmental resources, represented Illinois.

“I think it’s encouraging any time you hear an EPA administrator, like we heard Administrator Stepp, say we’d like to see a coalition of Farm Bureaus bring answers to the table,” Duncan said. “I think it’s encouraging that she’s listening to us.”

The group discussed a variety of topics from water quality and nutrient management to livestock and pesticide registration. They also shared examples of how farmers continue to take proactive steps to improve the environment.

“I think the tone and tenor of the meeting was one of proactive solution-finding yet recognizing that – no mistake about it – we need to make progress on nutrient management,” Duncan said.

Looking to the future, EPA and Farm Bureau leaders agreed to keep the discussion going and meet again next year.

“It was really exciting to hear them tell us: Keep the invitations coming,” Lurkins said. “We will take those opportunities.

“U.S. EPA impacts our farmers’ lives in a lot of ways. For example, they were discussing policies that are 300 pages long, drafted in D.C. with the best of intentions but have no reflection of reality on a farm. We hope these meetings will help get our members a seat at that table – the chance for their voice to be part of the conversation and maybe be part of a solution.”

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