U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack invited EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Iowa "to help her understand and appreciate what we are doing in agriculture. I think it's important for administrator Jackson to actually be on a farm and see what is taking place."
He noted the visits to livestock and crop farms and the biodiesel plant gave Jackson an "opportunity to talk to farmers and to set the record straight on a number of issues -- from dust, to spilled milk to cow taxes. At the same time it's an opportunity for her to learn what American farmers are doing in terms of concentration and the absolute commitment that farmers have to conservation."
In answer to a question about EPA and farmers, Jackson asserted "we are not targeting agriculture. We are simply following the law." She added that under the Clean Air Act EPA is charged with renewing the standards with regard to dust every five years to ensure they are correct. "We are in the middle of the current review. My staff is reviewing the outside science and will make recommendations. However, I have to make the final decision and that will come in July."
The group first visited the Monty Collins livestock farm near Pleasantville where he highlighted his soil conservation and rotational grazing efforts. The entire farm is seeded to grass and has not been tilled for more than 25 years. Over the years Collins has utilized the FSA beginning farmer loan program and EQIP cost share funding to establish pastures and build fences. "The Collins farm is a really good example of using USDA programs to grow livestock," said Vilsack.
"I'm inspired by what Monty has done to conserve the soil," noted Jaskson after the tour. She said she also learned, among other things, about how Collins' uses DDGs in his cattle rations. Jackson does not have a farm background.
At the Renewable Energy Group biodiesel plant in the Newton officials showcased the wide variety of raw materials it uses to produce biodiesel. "This facility efficiently converts recycled and natural fats and oils into advanced biofuel which may be used in any diesel engine seamlessly," explained REG president and chief operating officer, Daniel J. Oh. "Biodiesel production complements protein production by using the co-products and by-products of meat and meal production."
The final stop was at Gordon Wassenaar's row crop farm near Prairie City where he explained to Jackson how he utilizes technology such as auto steering to more accurately apply herbicides, etc.
"My impression after the visits today is that there is a lot of stewardship going on in the farm business," summarized Jackson.