What is EPA doing?
EPA recognizes that farmers and ranchers in the southeast manage large parcels of rural lands. They make decisions each day about tillage practices and pesticide and nutrient use. As good stewards, farmers and ranchers have generally demonstrated their commitment to protect land and water resources and their way of life through voluntary programs and incentives for environmental stewardship.
Region 4 supports efforts to protect human health and the environment by working collaboratively with agriculture partners and by providing technical assistance and funding for innovative demonstration and applied research projects. When agricultural activities violate environmental regulations, EPA or our state partners take appropriate enforcement actions.
Why is agriculture important?
Agriculture is the largest land use in the Region 4 states with:
- 9.4 percent or 107 million acres in cropland,
- 12.9 percent or 147 million acres in pasture and hayfields, and
- 46.4 percent or 528 million acres in private and public forests.
Region 4 farmers and ranchers produce more chicken meat, catfish, thoroughbred horses, citrus, peanuts and sweet potatoes than any other region and are second in hog production. States in Region 4 also provide a wide range of other crops such as sugarcane, cotton, soybeans, pecans, turf grasses and horticultural products.
Over 1.47 million tons of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer (excluding manure) and 87,710 tons of pesticide active ingredients were applied to farms in Region 4 between 2001 and 2002.
What are the issues?
Agriculture production has been identified as having potential adverse impacts on surface and ground water quality and quantity, native ecosystems, air quality, land resources, and farm workers. In many cases, Region 4 recognizes that agricultural producers have taken significant steps to reduce these adverse impacts; however, challenges remain.
Improper agricultural production practices affect surface and ground water quality. Surface runoff from eroding fields can add sediments as well as nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that degrade the water quality of nearby streams and rivers. Although pesticide use in the Southeast can produce beneficial results, increases in accidental exposure and misuse have also resulted in water quality problems. Livestock waste from animal feeding operations and associated spray fields can impair water quality and create odor problems.
Agricultural production uses large amounts of surface and ground water. In several parts of Region 4, the need for water to support agricultural production competes with other uses for potable water especially during drought conditions.
What can you do?
- Learn more about agriculture in general at EPA Ag 101.
- Find information about environmental requirements that affect the agricultural community at the National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center.
- Learn about our partners in agriculture who are responsible for many programs that provide financial, technical and other support to minimize agriculture’s impact on the environment
- Bring conservation principles from agriculture to your yard by practicing backyard conservation.