NAWG President Wayne Hurst, a wheat farmer from Burley, Idaho, traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to participate in a meeting of commodity leaders with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson.

In what Hurst described as largely a "listening session" for the Administration officials, farmers discussed the plethora of environment and EPA-related regulations and court actions that are facing the agriculture community.

Farmer-leaders from associations representing producers of corn, soybeans, cotton and rice also attended the meeting, and the group collectively shared concerns on issues including NPDES permitting concerns; pending Chesapeake Bay nutrient standards; spray drift policy; and the consultation process between agencies on the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

For his part, Hurst focused on concerns with the ESA consultation process. NAWG has been working with other ag groups to encourage EPA to modify its process of reviewing pesticides with regards to endangered species.

While the EPA's process for approval of pesticides under existing law is science-based, some environmental groups are using uncertainties in the process - particularly the consideration of output from faulty models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) - to challenge EPA's approval of pesticides, putting them in threat.

At the meeting on Tuesday, Hurst asked Vilsack and Jackson to convene a high-level policy meeting between USDA, EPA and the Departments of the Interior and Commerce to hammer out a new process that is streamlined, transparent, open to stakeholder input and, most importantly, based on the best available science versus faulty computer models.

NAWG appreciated the opportunity for Hurst and senior staff to meet with Visack and Jackson and values the continued dialogue between USDA, EPA and farm stakeholders.

NAWG Immediate Past President Jerry McReynolds participated in a similar meeting when he was president of the Association, since which time NAWG has frequently encouraged the Secretary to set up another such meeting with the EPA administrator.