On the banks of the Sunflower River, just outside of Clarksdale, Miss., 13 miles from the mighty Mississippi River, Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, recently delivered two things: a message detailing the EPA’s commitment to transform the agency back into an organization that will stop the onerous, far-reaching aspects of a federal authority and return a common-sense approach to their efforts to protect the environment; and a $1 million grant to Delta F.A.R.M. and a $1 million grant to Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
Resource management was one of the main topics highlighted in remarks delivered by Pruitt, Trey Glenn, EPA administrator, Region 4 (which includes Mississippi), Jim Gulliford, EPA administrator, Region 7 (which includes Iowa), Matt Lechtenberg, Water Quality Initiative coordinator for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Dan Branton, Chairman, Delta F.A.R.M.
“This is my second trip to the Delta since coming to EPA. Gov. (Phil) Bryant and I visited government agencies and stakeholders across this state on my last visit, and I look forward to seeing him again at tomorrow’s Delta Council Meeting,” said Pruitt. “Gov. Bryant has been an invaluable partner working with us at the federal level.”
Culture of collaboration
Pruitt focused on instilling an across-the-board culture of collaboration to expeditiously advance the environmental objectives placed on the table by the EPA. “When you look at our budget at EPA (around $8.8 billion) after the omnibus bill was passed, about half of the expenditures are grants which go to states and stakeholders across the country,” added Pruitt. “I know Delta F.A.R.M., the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and all farmers who benefit from the work of those two organizations will also benefit from these two grants.”
Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, invited Lechtenberg to accept the check and to attend the event held on Hopson Plantation. The check presentation was staged underneath huge old oak trees that provided shade, and were located beside endless rows of young cotton stands farmed by Bowen Flowers.
“I want to thank the EPA and the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force for the work they have done,” said Lechtenberg. “Our organization, Delta F.A.R.M., and all Iowa and Delta farmers will hopefully reap the results of this work in the success and growth of their operations in the future.”
In Mississippi, the grant will be used, from a big picture perspective, to invest in projects designed to improve water quality. “At Delta F.A.R.M., we understand that to achieve broad adoption by farmers across our state, we must illustrate that our strategies will ultimately improve yields on their farms,” says Trey Cooke, executive director, Delta F.A.R.M.
“We’ve got cover crops in place on Delta farming operations where we’ll be checking stand densities, looking at different varieties, tracking pest and weed pressure, and then analyzing data that impacts yields in these conservation systems to determine the ‘limiting factors’ so they can be adjusted to provide improved outcomes.”