EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent part of Wednesday on an Indiana farm talking about how to fix the Waters of the U.S. Rule. Gary Truitt was the only radio reporter allowed to attend the event. The Administrator’s visit was part of a 3 week tour that has taken him to a half dozen states and resulted from a growing personal relationship between Governor Holcomb and Administrator Pruitt. He spent time at Starkey Farms in Hendricks County learning about no-till, cover crops, and water quality measures. Pruitt told me his goal is to refocus EPA on its core mission, “Getting back to the basics of communication, making sure all voices are heard, and that we are working together vs working apart. We recognize that farmers want clarity and that they want to be good stewards. We want to work with them to achieve a good environmental outcome.”
This dramatic change in the agency’s philosophy and approach to dealing with farmers is a direct result of the new leadership in Washington. Previously, Pruitt said his agency took a very paternalistic approach to dealing with state agencies that regulate the environment. With Governor Holcomb at his side, Pruitt said the EPA will be working more closely with state agencies when it comes to environmental regulations, “EPA should be looking at state regulatory agencies as a strength, not a weakness. Going forward, we are going to get that clarified and work with the Governor and the agency here in Indiana.” Holcomb said Indiana looks forward to partnering with the EPA on a variety of environmental issues and industries, “It is refreshing that our agencies are working together to solve problems.”
Pruitt admitted that, for the past 8 years, his agency has had an adversarial relationship with farmers. He vowed to change that and to get farmers to once again trust the EPA, “The ag community in this state and in this country feed the world. We should recognize and celebrate that and empower them to keep doing that. We should also recognize that they (farmers) are here to care for the land and to trust them in that regard.” He added that is what has been missing in the relationship between farmers and the EPA: trust.
While at Starkey Farms, Pruitt met with and had a roundtable discussion with the Governor, Lt. Governor and Indiana’s top farm leaders including representatives of Indiana Farm Bureau, ISDA, Indiana Soybean Alliance, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indiana Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and, Purdue University, Department of Agronomy.