Common Ground for Soybean Farming and Clean Water

By Karl Brooks

Water quality and environmental issues can have tremendous impacts on soybean farming. With so many issues involving the intersection of agriculture, public policy, and environmental concerns these days, it’s absolutely essential that we all gain a better understanding of our common ground.

A speaker reads questions to the audience during the American Soybean Association’s Leadership College panel event. (left to right) Adam Ward, executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association, Karl Brooks, EPA region 7 administrator and Roger Wolf, director of environmental programs and services at Iowa Soybean Association sit on the panel.

That was an important theme for us during a panel discussion at the American Soybean Association’s Leadership College on Jan. 7 in St. Louis. With me on the panel was Roger Wolf, the Iowa Soybean Association’s director of environmental programs and services; and Adam Ward, executive director of the Ohio Soybean Association.

Those of us who work in EPA’s regional offices know how important it is to maintain — and likewise, build new — working partnerships across the agricultural community with the very people who feed us and much of the world. In the Midwest, Region 7 has a keen awareness of and respect for agriculture’s role in the economic fabric of the Heartland. We know how important it is to listen to farmers and producers and other industry experts.

During the panel discussion, I highlighted the Clean Water Rule’s longstanding exemptions for normal farming and ranching. While maintaining those exemptions, the proposed rule will strengthen the protection for clean water that is essential to all Americans. Currently, one in three Americans—that’s 117 million people—get their drinking water from streams that are vulnerable and need this protection.

We also discussed how voluntary efforts and best management practices will be key to the success of reducing nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. My challenge to this leadership was to help keep pushing the science to find more cutting-edge nutrient management practices. Better models and strategies can be measured in improved water quality, both locally and in the Gulf.

EPA’s participation in these events helps us all work toward common goals of protecting our land and keeping our streams clean.

The sustainability and protection of our land and water resources is a mutual objective as EPA continues to work with our partners in agriculture.


Karl Brooks serves as the EPA Region 7 Administrator.

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