On Monday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrapped up his visit to Mississippi announcing a multi-million-dollar grant initiative dedicated to sustainable pest control in agriculture.

While in Mississippi, he also held meetings with elected officials, hosted a press conference on the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps Project, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Mississippi Farm Bureau.

“Finding a long-term solution to the flooding of the Yazoo Backwater Area will allow the impacted community and environment to prosper and grow,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.  “EPA stands ready to continue to work with the US Army Corps, the entire Mississippi congressional delegation and countless local officials and community groups who are committed to finally finishing this important work.”

“Environmental protection is a shared responsibility, and EPA Region 4 enjoys the strong relationships we have built with our partners in Mississippi to advance this goal,” said EPA Regional Administrator Mary Walker. “From our support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to address devastating flooding to our work with the Mississippi Farm Bureau to advance sustainable agriculture, EPA works diligently every day to ensure a cleaner, healthier environment for all in Mississippi.”

“The proud people of the South Delta are forgotten no more,” said EPA Chief of Staff and native Mississippian Mandy Gunasekara. “The collective efforts of this community alongside new information has allowed the US EPA to move the pumps project forward, which once complete will provide overdue protections for the local people, environment, and wildlife.”

Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler participated in a series of meetings with Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Director Chris Wells.

At the Yazoo Backwater Area Pumps Project Press Conference, Administrator Wheeler was joined by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) Mississippi Valley Commission Director Colonel Robert Hilliard, Regional Administrator Mary Walker, and EPA Chief of Staff Mandy Gunasekara. Many other state and local officials as well as impacted community representatives attended the conference as well. Prior to the press conference, Administrator Wheeler participated in a briefing with the Corps on the project.

During the press conference, Administrator Wheeler emphasized the agency’s continued commitment to working with the Corps as they seek to provide a long-term, viable solution to flooding in the Yazoo Backwater Area. In nine out of the past ten years, the Yazoo Backwater Area has experienced significant flooding that has threatened the lives and property of people in the region. It is also well known that many of these communities in the Mississippi Delta qualify as Environmental Justice Communities, where attention to environmental degradation has been neglected, which in turn has hurt economic investment in these communities for decades.

In May 2020, EPA accepted the Corps request to act as a cooperating agency as the Corps worked to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Yazoo Pumps Project. The agency participated in two cooperating agency meetings with the Corps that focused on new data and assessment protocols. As a cooperating agency, EPA submitted comments on the Corps’ SEIS on November 30, 2020.

At an event with the Mississippi Farm Bureau, Administrator Wheeler announced a $2 million dollar initiative that encourages smart, sensible, and sustainable pest control in agriculture. Administrator Wheeler was also joined by U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Director Chris Wells, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson, Mississippi State Senator Charles Younger, Mississippi Farm Bureau President Mike McCormick, and EPA Regional Administrator Mary Walker for the announcement. The initiative, which is an extension of EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP), expects to award grantees up to $200,000 to implement sustainable pest management practices that align with the agency’s goal of providing a healthier environment for all Americans.

While at Nutrien Ag Solutions in Bolton, Mississippi, EPA  also signed a MOU with the Mississippi Farm Bureau to increase collaboration and communications with agriculture stakeholders. This MOU focuses on coordinating education and outreach efforts, while recognizing environmental stewardship activities.

“We are honored to host EPA Administrator Wheeler in Bolton, MS today, and are pleased to be a part of this important announcement. We are truly happy to formally sign this MOU with EPA Region 4. Continuing and enhancing the relationship between Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and the regional EPA office is key to the success of Mississippi agriculture,” said Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation President Mike McCormick.

EPA recognizes farmers and ranchers as natural allies in EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. This is the latest in a series of MOUs meant to continue building partnerships with the agriculture community, while promoting sustainability and reaching for environmental successes in mutually beneficial and critical areas.

This fiscal year, EPA expects to award approximately $2 million total for agricultural projects that explore innovative practices, technologies, education, and non-regulatory solutions that promote the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. Traditional pest control involves the routine application of pesticides. IPM, in contrast, combines biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks.

EPA expects to issue a Request for Applications in January 2021 and applicants will have 45 days to submit their applications. Funding will be available to:

  • States or state agencies, territories, city or township governments, and federally recognized tribes.
  • Public and private universities and colleges.
  • Other public or private nonprofit institutions and 501(c)(3) organizations (PESP membership is not an eligibility requirement to receive funding).

For more information about PESP, visit: www.epa.gov/pesp.

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Release from the U.S. EPA.