Ag Secretary Perdue, EPA Administrator Pruitt visit Georgia

By: Georgia Farm Bureau
7/12/2017 11:50:29 AM

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt visited Middle Georgia on July 7, touring Gully Branch, the tree farm operated by Earl and Wanda Barrs in Bleckley County before meeting with approximately 100 landowners and agricultural stakeholders. 

Perdue and Pruitt carried a message that their agencies will work with farmers and landowners to ensure their needs are considered while implementing environmental regulations. 

The visit came 10 days after the EPA announced it would rescind the controversial Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. 

"The EPA has been an impediment, not just in your industry but in other industries," Pruitt said. "There's been a distrust that's been engendered in Washington D.C., that we can't trust people. we can't trust folks who own private property to do what's necessary to protect the water and the air. That's just simply not the case."

After the pair of federal government leaders made remarks, they opened the floor, and the crowd responded with questions about the Trump adminisration's stance on conservation, environmental education and forest fire prevention. 

Pruitt was asked about rapid changes in water quality standards and the effects they have on small communities.

"We need regulatory certainty," Pruitt said. "We need to work with communities across the country and say here's where we want to be and then along the runway, so people and communities can invest and plan and allocate resources."

Georgia Farm Bureau Forestry Committee Chairman John Mixon asked Perdue about the USDA's budget for the U.S. Forest Service, particularly for fire prevention practices.

"One thing we've always heard is get on that fire while it's small and put it out," Mixon said. "You don't get there and wait two days to get all the planning altogether and instead of a five-acre fire you may have a 50-acre fire or a 500-acre fire. Please look at this as well."

Perdue said the issue has drawn the attention of Congress and a budgetary fix is possible.

"The budget of the U.S. Forest Service has been decimated by the fact that we've had to fight major, major disaster forest fires and it's drained the budget," Perdue said. "We couldn't manage those. We couldn't clean the undergrowth. We can't do controlled burning. We can't harvest the dead wood out of there, which just provides for good fire wood when that fire starts. There's a good bit of interest in Congress to do that. We're going to work on that and try to get it done."

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