On April 16, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) senior agricultural counsel said clean energy and building bridges with the farming/ranching community will be priorities going forward.

“I am here to advance the President’s priority of a clean energy future,” said Sarah Bittleman during a conference call with reporters. “We can do that with agriculture as a partner.

“Second, I want to continue to continue to build on the federal, state and local partnerships that EPA has established to engage farmers and ranchers in the important work of continually improving the quality of our water, air and land.”

Bittleman, who grew up in rural New York, acknowledged she has her work cut out when it comes to establishing trust between the agency and agriculture, which are often at odds. “There are some issues of trust definitely in play. My job is to figure out how to restore some of that trust. Some of that can be restored by working directly with the ag groups, with growers and ranchers individually.

“It’s also important that EPA work deeply with USDA, with conservation districts, with state departments of agriculture. We (need to) actually hear from and work with these folks who have more consistently positive relationships with the agricultural community.”

Other government agencies are also working for a cleaner environment. Sometimes, she said, the EPA just needs to ride shotgun. The EPA “doesn’t need to be the face of everything: clean air, clean water. … We can partner with (other government entities) and add to their knowledge base … so that we’re involved in the evolution of cleaner air and water – but we don’t need to be the face of it all the time.”

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