The report recommends how to most effectively manage the nation's water quality issues and how best to improve water quality across the country, as they relate to agricultural production. It also offers recommendations for (1) increasing support for certainty programs, (2) increasing stewardship, and (3) coordinating resource allocation and use with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with land grant universities and with the agricultural sector.
In four meetings over the past 15 months, the committee studied interactions between agriculture systems and the environment, and related policy and technical issues, including federal, state and local regulatory and voluntary program conditions. The committee gathered information from a variety of water, conservation and farm experts on water and environmental issues in general, and those issues specifically related to some of the country's major aquatic ecosystems, including the Mississippi River Basin, Puget Sound, Florida Everglades, Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes.
Among the Committee's recommendations discussed in detail in the report are that EPA should:
- Ensure that nutrient criteria and new suspended and bedded sediments (SABS) criteria are science-based and rely upon a clear cause-effect relationship.
- Use adaptive management to inform the ways in which nutrients and SABS can be managed most effectively to reduce off-site movement into waterways.
- Always use the EPA Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses, and ensure that they are updated as appropriate.
- Develop a coordinated public engagement plan to exchange information on agricultural and environmental issues.
- Ensure it has adequate resources to work effectively in the field with agriculture on environmental issues.
- Work proactively and often with agriculture to address water quality issues.
- Continue to encourage and support state certainty programs, especially with respect to stewardship.
- Continue to improve the effectiveness and reach of currently available resources by leveraging resources with others, including the USDA.
- Enable and provide resources for a partnership resulting in improved measurement, documentation and verification of water quality benefits from agricultural practices.
- Convene, support and facilitate a partnership to evaluate and advance more effective approaches to delivering real improvements to nutrient management and other critical conservation practice efforts, and to advance more effective use of federal and state resources invested in conservation programs.