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Contact EPA Pacific Southwest

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Sustainable Agriculture Partnerships

The Challenge

Agriculture is an important component of local and national economies and encompasses large amounts of land. Traditional regulatory programs are not designed to address the broad ecological and human health impacts of agriculture. Agriculture is a significant source of air pollution and is also the nation’s leading source of ground and surface water pollution. Finally, pesticide applications cause acute illnesses in an estimated 7.5% of the agricultural labor force each year.

The Solution

EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region created an Agriculture Initiative in 1993 to promote win-win approaches that address both ecological and economic concerns. Partners include agricultural commodity groups, hundreds of farmers, University of California research and extension personnel, environmental groups, the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, and local Resource Conservation Districts. Working in partnership with producers, the Initiative has documented the viability of ecologically-based integrated pest and soil management methods. These methods are generally less reliant on pesticides and fertilizers yet still maintain the producers’ profitability.

Since 1995, EPA has provided technical assistance and over one million dollars to support partnerships for research and education on environmentally-friendly growing methods for more than a dozen key crops, mostly in California’s Central Valley. Major commodity partners include: dairies, walnuts, citrus, rice, strawberries, apples, almonds, grapes and prunes. Much of this work has been coordinated through the University of California’s Biologically Integrated Farming System (BIFS) Program. These projects directly involve farmers who field test and educate other farmers on innovative sustainable farming systems. A report on the results of these programs is available at http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/BIFS/bifs01/index.htm .

Currently, the Initiative is administering two annual grant programs: implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP). Web links for these programs can be found at http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/pesp/grants.htm and http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/grants/

The Results

Working cooperatively with our industry partners, we have achieved significant reductions in pesticides and fertilizer use, and increased adoption of sustainable farming practices. For example, 1334 acres of rice on nine Butte County farms maintained crop yields while demonstrating reductions of 50% in toxic herbicides and 20% in nitrogen fertilizer compared to the county average. These ongoing collaborations between growers, scientists, and EPA has benefits for everyone with a stake in farming: growers save money by using less chemicals; workers have safer working conditions; consumers get safer food; and the overall environment is better protected.

Contacts

For general information, contact Jamie Liebman, (415) 947-4241. The FQPA grant program contact is Cindy Moore, (415) 947-4242, and the PESP grant contact is Paul Feder, (415) 947-4160.


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