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Spronk: New Administrator Can Change Culture at EPA

Gina McCarthy is willing to reach out and listen to industry concerns

The management of the Environmental Protection Agency and how it interacts with industries it regulates is in need of a major overhaul. The U.S. Pork Industry believes that Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the agency’s new administrator, is poised to make that happen.

Under McCarthy’s leadership as assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation for the past four years, the staff in the EPA Air Office has been smart, professional, transparent and trustworthy; they say what they mean and mean what they say. And for the stakeholders affected by the policies of that office, that has been, well, a breath of fresh air.

The U.S. pork industry, which in 2006 negotiated a consent agreement with EPA’s Air Office to determine the emissions from farms, didn’t always agree with McCarthy and her department, but she was consistently willing to reach out and listen to pork producers’ concerns and discuss solutions.

The Air Office answered the industry’s questions honestly about internal processes and regulatory directions and gave producers an opportunity to express their views and concerns. While not all EPA offices have traditionally worked as constructively with us, we are now optimistic of a change from an “us versus them” culture in the agency to one of “us AND them.”

Administrator McCarthy has a genuine interest in learning about our industry and the challenges we face. Because of that, she is aware of our industry’s record of environmental stewardship. She is aware that we have invested time and money to educate producers on Clean Water Act compliance, which has led to significant improvements on the environmental management of hog farms and resulted in zero discharge operations.

There are many who fear that ongoing gridlock between Congress and Obama will result in government being run by regulatory action. That result creates a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among U.S. business owners, including farmers, because they don’t know what government action to expect, when to expect it and who to expect it from. Therefore, communication and expectations between government and industry will be crucial.

There are some challenging roads ahead for the U.S. pork industry. The real effect of one of our nation’s biggest droughts in history is expected to be felt for years to come; the threshold for temporarily waiving the renewable fuel standard, especially in times of drought, continues to be too high; and we continue to be attacked with non-scientific claims by well-funded special interest groups. However, in these times of adversity, it is promising to U.S. hog farmers that the new EPA administrator will treat us as partners and not adversaries.

Randy Spronk is president of the National Pork Producers Council.

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