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EPA: Water quality improving throughout Iowa

By Staff | Feb 23, 2012

By Darcy Maulsby

Farm News staff writer

DES?MOINES – There’s a good-news message to share about Iowa agriculture, said, Karl Brooks, a regional administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who said the state’s water quality is improving.

“You, your families and your farms depend on clean, abundant water,” Brooks said, who delivered the keynote speech at last week’s Agribusiness Showcase and Conference in Des Moines hosted by the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. “I salute the progress that Iowans have made in taking care of their water resources.”

Brooks noted that some of the highest officials in the EPA, including Administrator Lisa Jackson, have seen first-hand the many success stories of Iowa agriculture.

“You show in a very practical way how you are protecting our most precious resources every day,” Brooks said, “including the land, air and water.”

Since the EPA was established in 1970, the agency’s work in Iowa has focused on productive, fair solutions that allow officials and farmers to reach common goals, said Brooks, who tried to clarify a number of contentious issues, including the ag dust issue.

“By law, every five years the EPA has to review how much particulate matter will make people sick. We set the standards based on science.”

He also addressed the pesticide general permit, which impacts applicators who apply pesticides around bodies of water to control cattails, algae, zebra mussels and mosquitoes. “This permit will impact hardly any row-crop producers in Iowa.”

While charges have been made for 40 years that EPA regulations will kill jobs in the countryside, a more positive story is much closer to the truth, Brooks said. “Today’s agriculture is vastly larger, more productive and more complex than 40 years ago.

“In the last 40 years, we’ve left an environment that’s substantially cleaner and healthier than the environment that our great-grandparents left.”

There is more work to be done, added Brooks, who said that excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels in streams remain one of the biggest environmental challenges in the United States.

EPA’s goal is to provide the best information possible to landowners, farmers, state agencies and other stakeholders.

“The people who know the land are in the best position to have the knowledge and commitment needed to make necessary changes.You can have prosperity and environmental protection at the same time, because they are two sides of the same coin.”

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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