EPA Region 4 works with our agriculture partners and other interested parties to achieve environmental improvement and promote sustainable production of safe, abundant supplies of food, fiber, horticultural, and energy products. Our Regional Agricultural Strategy identifies several priority activities including promotion of the following areas:
- Environmental Stewardship
- Environmentally sustainable energy technologies and climate change mitigation
- Clean and safe water through watershed protection
Perdue Clean Waters Environmental Initiative
- EPA Regions 4 and 3 and Perdue Farms Incorporated entered into an agreement to help independent contract poultry producers growing for Perdue protect our nation's waters. The parties signed a Memorandum of Agreement to implement the Perdue Clean Waters Environmental Initiative, a voluntary effort to provide training assistance and environmental assessments for poultry producers.
- The initiative will help the producers' poultry operations comply with federal, state and local environmental regulations. Perdue poultry processing facilities will also each implement an Environmental Management System, which is a set of processes and practices that will reduce environmental impacts and increase operating efficiency.
- Soil Fumigant Risk Mitigation
EPA is implementing new protective measures for the soil fumigants. Certain of the measures become effective in late 2010 with full implementation by late 2011. Mitigation measures include provisions requiring applicators to develop fumigant management plans and implement Good Agricultural Practices. Good Agricultural Practices include proper soil preparation and measurement of soil moisture and temperature. All soil fumigants will be classified as Restricted Use Pesticides. Pesticide handlers must receive additional safety information once per year. Growers will need to calculate buffer zone distances based on tarp selection, soil organic content, soil temperature and the method of application. Region 4 is collaborating with the states on all aspects of these changes, but placing special emphasis on the training of state pesticide inspectors.
- Resistance Management
EPA has formed a national workgroup to develop a plan of action to address issues arising when pests become resistant to the pesticides available for their control. EPA anticipates addressing these issues through the registration and re-registration process. Resistance to pesticides is a serious issue. For instance, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth continues to spread rapidly across Georgia. By 2011, this pest will likely infest all Georgia cotton-producing counties. Research shows that in conservation tillage rotational cover crops such as rye when left on the soil surface can be used to block sunlight required for weed germination.
- Integrated Pest Management
R4 annually funds projects through the Strategic Agricultural Initiative that encourage the use of integrated pest management practices. These projects often involve NRCS staff and may include practices eligible for cost share under the EQIP program. EPA appreciates the contributions that NRCS agents make in many of these projects such as the April 21, 2010, field day in Kentucky sponsored by the Cumberland River Compact. (April 27, 2010).
- Region 4 funded $2 million with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a project in Miami-Dade County for retrofitting diesel engines on agriculture irrigation pumps. The project has been very popular with local farmers and Miami-Dade has received numerous inquiries about expanding the program into other areas of Florida and the Southeast. EPA would like to identify ways to fund additional retrofits in Florida and other areas of the Southeast. Benefits include significantly reduced particulates being released into the air and more efficient use of water.
- Green Corridors Support Biodiesel
Through the Southeast Diesel Collaborative, EPA is working to establish green corridors along all southern interstates. The goal is to have biodiesel and other alternative fuel readily available at most exits. To make this effort most efficient, ideally biodiesel would be processed within 50-100 miles of the retail outlet.
Farm to Energy: Animal Waste to Energy
- The EPA Office of Research and Development funded a project at the University of Tennessee, Combustion of Poultry Litter in an Outside Hydronic Furnace for Wintertime Heating of Broiler Production Houses. The research will evaluate the heat deliver capacity of poultry litter; impacts of combustion on temperature, ammonia levels and humidity; technique to efficiently deliver the litter to the furnace; emissions; and bird health. The project is on-going.
Carbon Offset Initiative for Swine Producers in North CarolinaFacilitating Carbon Offset Projects on North Carolina Swine Farms to Encourage Greenhouse Gas Emission and Other Pollution Reductions, Environmental Defense Fund and Duke University
- Region 4 provided grant funding to the Environmental Defense Fund to research the potential carbon offset aggregation entity best suited to represent swine growers in North Carolina. The report is now available, http://sustainability.duke.edu/documents/EPA-EDF-Duke_NC%20Swine%20Sector%20Carbon%20Offsets_Final.pdf
Clean and Safe Water Through Watershed Protection
- EPA provided a grant to Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farm, Atlanta, Georgia, to support three areas: 1) educating interns using hands-on experience at the farm, 2) educating the community about composting food waste (the compost is used on farm in the vegetable beds) and 3) water conservation using collected water from rain barrels. Supporting sustainable or organic community food systems is good for the environment for many reasons. The use of petroleum based fertilizer is reduced or eliminated, transportation costs to get the food to consumers are reduced, pesticide use is minimized and the level of environmentalism is increased among the producers and consumers.
- Region 4 provides grant funding related to the Food Quality Protection Act for projects to state and non-profit organizations and seeks partnerships with many diverse groups.
- SAI grants funded by Region 4 emphasize the use and study of reduced risk pesticides and alternatives to pesticide use.
- Region 4 is providing grant funding to the North Carolina Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance Division to assist pork producers in developing EMSs for their farms.
- The University of Georgia has been actively engaged in environmental assessments for poultry EMS development. They will continue a similar initiative to involve Georgia dairy farmers in EMS development.
- Perdue Farms will implement an EMS at all of their poultry processing facilities as a part of the Perdue Clean Waters Environmental Initiative.
Resource Conservation Challenge
- Region 4 encourages local communities and sectors to increase recycling and reuse of old cans, bottles, paper products and organics.
- Grant funding was recently provided to the University of Florida to recycle industrial materials such as tomato culls and waste water generated at vegetable packinghouses.
- Region 4 facilitates collaborative actions to protect, maintain, and restore the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region
- One program activity that supports agriculture activity in Region 4 is the Conservation Tillage Demonstration Project in Alabama
- Priority watersheds are located in each of the Region 4 states. Our state and federal partners have agreed to focus a portion of our mutual resources to protect and restore waters in selected priority watersheds.
- Agriculture is a major land use in most of these priority watersheds.
- Region 4 provides funds to state agencies and tribal governments who work to reduce polluted runoff from diffuse sources. These voluntary projects and programs help to reduce nutrients and sediment in runoff to surface waters from agriculture and urban lands.
- Success stories include Flint River in Alabama, Mills River in North Carolina, Coneross and Beaverdam Creeks in North Carolina and Hinds Creek in Tennessee.
- Region 4 shares information and facilitates future trading by utilizing market-based concepts for water quality improvement.
- Facilities faced with higher water treatment costs can purchase equivalent, or greater, pollutant reduction from point or nonpoint sources with lower treatment costs. Agriculture lands are often targeted in some water quality trading activities.
Environmental Justice Farmers' Initiative
- Collaborate with federal, state and local agriculture partners to reach out to minority and low-income farmers. Help them implement Best Management Practices that are profitable, sustainable and improve water quality on impaired stream segments.