U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced Thursday that she will leave that post early next year, creating questions about what policy changes are ahead for farmers.
"In my recent speeches, when I said that she would likely leave, farmers clapped," says Jim Wiesemeyer, vice president of Informa Economics. "So that shows you the attitude they had about her, right or wrong."
(Click here to read EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's complete statement.)
Farmers usually want to hear a more moderate tone from an EPA administrator, so it will be a good omen if President Barack Obama’s nominee talks publicly about the costs and benefits of regulation.
"Sometimes these regulations are more costly than they’re worth," Wiesemeyer says. Administrators frequently are chosen from the environmentally sensitive New England area, but it’s unclear at this point whether that will happen again.
"Whomever he selects will have to be confirmed, and that will draw out a number of needed questions by both Democratic and Republican farm-state lawmakers," he says.
Obama took an aggressive approach to environmental policy issues for the first two years of his presidency and later put it on hold in the run-up to the election, Wiesemeyer says. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has tried to explain the Obama administration’s policy in less emotional terms, Wiesemeyer says, though he cautions that some farm-state lawmakers have overreacted about what new regulations the EPA might or might not impose.
Out of all farmers, those in the livestock sector are particularly nervous about the future of environmental policy as it relates to CAFO and other regulations, he says.
Referencing comments by Obama earlier this year, Jackson says the EPA has taken additional steps toward energy independence and kept air, water and food safe during her tenure.
"I will leave the EPA confident the ship is sailing in the right direction, and ready in my own life for new challenges, time with my family and new opportunities to make a difference," she says.
Vilsack says that Jackson has been a friend to people who "live and work in rural America" and that her leadership will be missed.
"Lisa Jackson has served our country well as she balanced improving the environment and the health of the American people - while ensuring our country's economic competitiveness - because they are intrinsically linked," Vilsack says. "Throughout her tenure, she listened to stakeholders, including farmers and ranchers, and took their concerns into account while considering policies that impacted rural America."
The National Corn Growers Association thanked Jackson for "acting on the Obama Administration’s commitment to ethanol and other biofuels." In describing her tenure, the organization voiced its support for Jackson’s efforts to:
- Approve E15, a 15% ethanol blended fuel, for use by consumers
- Deny requests for a waiver of Renewable Fuel Standard provisions
- Maintain existing rural dust standards and continue registration of atrazine
- Expedite special review of AF-36, an aflatoxin mitigation tool
"Administrator Jackson worked with NCGA to support the ethanol industry and promote science-based regulations during her tenure," says Chairman Garry Niemeyer, a farmer from Auburn, Ill. "Upon the announcement of her departure, we thank her for the action she took on behalf of the administration to advance E15, support the RFS and for her willingness to work with America’s farmers. We hope to continue working in this cooperative, productive manner with her successor."
President Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union also voiced his organization’s appreciation for the administrator, noting the obstacles she faced.
"Although her tenure was marked with challenges, including unfounded allegations of phantom regulations, secret spy drones and cow taxes, these criticisms proved to be unwarranted," Johnson says.
Also during Jackson’s tenure, the EPA "took further steps to include a wider variety of feed stocks for the Renewable Fuel Standard, including grain sorghum, which will expand opportunities in rural America," he says.