Montana Farm Bureau members had an excellent opportunity to visit with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, July 24 in Kalispell. Wheeler’s trip, which was part of a swing across the West, focused on EPA’s Brownfields program and included a visit to Montana State University’s Northwestern Agricultural Research Center.  At the Center, Wheeler was accompanied by EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, FFA students from Glacier High School and other ag leaders. Attending from MFBF were Executive Vice President John Youngberg, MFBF District 1 Director Craig Blevins and Dr. Beth Blevins, as well as Northwest County Farm Bureau members Jack and Susan Lake.

“We were honored that Administrator Wheeler wanted to meet with farmers at the research center. We talked to him about ensuring farmers and ranchers can keep the tools they need to continue to produce food and fiber,” said MFBF Executive Vice President John Youngberg. “We need to make sure when we talk about pesticides, as well as other regulations, they are based on science and not emotion. We thanked him for the agency’s hard work on the Navigable Water Protection Rule and their willingness to work with agriculture. It was interesting to hear ideas about the importance of water reuse.”

“It was rewarding to hear the EPA Administrator talk about working with farmers rather than using a big hammer,” said Susan Lake, a seed potato farmer. “The administrator covered the new Navigable Water Protection Rule and explained that it’s necessary to avoid confusion by ensuring other agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resource Conservation Service understand the rule. He noted when a regulation comes out, not all of the different branches of the government understand its implications. It was impressive to hear him reiterate how much this administration pays attention to agriculture. Administrator Wheeler considers farmers and ranchers the first conservationists.”

While at the research center, Wheeler said the EPA has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with FFA because they want to work with young people who are planning to be involved in the many aspects of agriculture.  MFBF members and the administrator had a tour of the center where they viewed ongoing research on crop science. Following the tour and presentations, Wheeler took time to answer attendees’ questions. 

“President Trump has been steadfast in his support for agriculture and rural America, and my priority as administrator has been to restore trust between the agency and the agriculture community,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Montana has my commitment that EPA will work with farmers and ranchers throughout the state in a cooperative manner, and ensure that American agriculture remains the best in the world.”