There are several environmental concerns associated with the production of agricultural crops.
- Crop Information
- Methyl Bromide
- Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture
- Air Quality Conservation Practices
- Erosion Control
- Fertilizers and Soils
- Urban Agriculture
To learn more about crop production online, please visit Ag 101. This introduction to American agriculture covers the primary commodities produced today and the methods of doing so. An entire chapter is dedicated to crop production, and includes such topics as: soil preparation, planting, nutrient management, pest management, and harvesting.
More information from EPA
Crop Grouping Final Rule: Easing Regulatory Burdens and Expanding Opportunities for Minor Crop Producers (Technical Amendment Update) - EPA's final revision to its pesticide tolerance crop grouping regulations, allowing the establishment of tolerances (maximum residue levels) for multiple, related crops based upon data from a representative set of crops.
More information from USDA
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MultiCalculator - A set of three Excel spreadsheets that calculate irrigation needs, ethanol yields, and crop yields from USDA's ARS.
USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) - Since 1988, the SARE grants and education program has advanced agricultural innovation that promotes profitability, stewardship of the land, air and water, and quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities.
More information from the states
- EZregs Exit - University of Illinois Extension Web site that identifies environmental regulations that pertain to specific agricultural and horticultural operations and practices in Illinois.
More information from universities or other organizations
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- Conservation Technology Innovation Center - CTIC promotes and provides information on technologies and sustainable agricultural systems that conserve and enhance soil, water, air and wildlife resources and are productive and profitable.
Methyl bromide is a fumigant used to control pests in agriculture and shipping. Along with other countries, EPA has agreed to restrict the use of methyl bromide and reduce the amount used each year because it depletes the ozone layer. Learn more about protecting the ozone layer.
- What Residents in Agricultural Communities Should Know About Soil Fumigants - Infographic explaining what soil fumigants are, what symptoms of exposure look like, how they can leech into communities, and tips on avoiding soil fumigants.
Methyl Bromide Alternatives - Factsheet that details the several soil fumigant alternatives to methyl bromide which is known to contribute to ozone depletion.
Soil Fumigant Factsheet: Emergency Preparedness and Response Requirements - Factsheet summarizing new requirements to protect fumigant handlers and other workers from fumigant exposures.
Soil Fumigant Factsheet: Worker Protection Measures - Factsheet summarizing new requirements to protect fumigant handlers and other workers from fumigant exposures.
Soil Fumigant Factsheet: Buffer Zones - Factsheet summarizing new requirements to protect fumigant handlers and other workers from fumigant exposures, with some fumigants having additional buffer zone requirements.
Soil Fumigant Factsheet: Posting Requirements for Buffer Zones - Factsheet summarizing new requirements to protect fumigant handlers and other workers from fumigant exposures, with some fumigants having additional buffer zone requirements.
Soil Fumigant Mitigation Factsheet: Phase 2 Site-Specific Fumigant Management Plans and Post-Application Summaries - Factsheet summarizing new requirements to protect fumigant handlers and other workers from fumigant exposures.
Soil Fumigant Mitigation Factsheet: Implementation Schedule - Factsheet summarizing the soil fumigant product label changes that are going into effect during each of 2 phases.
Training and Exam Options for Pesticide Applicators of Soil Fumigant Products - Fact sheet summarizing new requirements to protect applicators, other fumigant handlers and bystanders from fumigant exposure.
Decontamination of Soil Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis Ames Spores - Technical brief on the different methodologies for removing anthrax from contaminated top soil.
Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture
Potential impacts of climate change on agriculture will be reflected most directly through the response of crops, livestock, soils, weeds, and insects, and diseases to the elements of climate to which they are most sensitive. Soil moisture and temperature are the climate factors likely to be most sensitive to change across large agricultural areas of North America.
More information from EPA
Agriculture and Climate Change
Air Quality Conservation Practices
- Agricultural Air Quality Conservation Measures Reference Guide for Cropping Systems and General Land Management - This guide provides a compilation of conservation measures for air pollutant emission reductions and/or reduction of air quality impacts from agricultural land management and cropping operations.
Erosion control practices are necessary for agricultural operations to control runoff and reduce the amount of soil erosion caused by that runoff. In areas with good drainage, crops are better able to use nutrients and chemicals and will benefit from these optimum growing conditions. When building erosion control structures, newly-graded soil surfaces may be stabilized with mulch prior to the establishment of a vegetative cover.
To establish good drainage, one or a combination of drainage and erosion control structures can be built and used depending on the site characteristics (e.g., slope, crop type, or climate). These structures include:
- Grassed waterways
- Water and sediment control basins
- Filter strips
- Riparian buffers
- Terracing and contouring
- Drainage tiles
More information from EPA
More information from USDA
- NRCS- Erosion Control Practices or SystemsExit - Conservation practices are commonly used on crop fields or other lands to reduce erosion, improve soil and water quality, improve plant health, and minimize off-site impacts from excess nutrients, pesticides and sediment. They are often used in tandem with vegetative or other management practices to increase effectiveness.
- Nutrient and Sediment Estimation Tools for Watershed Protection - Manual used to suggest tools and models to help with BMPs on land use operations (e.g. agriculture).
- Funding Agricultural Best Management Practices with Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) - Factsheet outlining monetary incentives and assistance for farmers who want to implement BMPs research projects.
- Federal Funding Opportunities for Source Water Protection - Guide to the different funding opportunities for implementing source water protection activities (e.g. land acquisition, agricultural BMPs, riparian buffer establishment).
- NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland - Guidelines to farmers for planting cover crops to prevent soil erosion and maintain downstream water quality without minimizing yield.
- Manual to Identify Sources of Fluvial Sediment - Manual used to help create a soil budget to minimize soil erosion and sediment input to adjacent watersheds, especially in the context of agriculture.
- Nonpoint Source Success Story Oklahoma Implementing Agricultural Conservation Practices Improves Turbidity Levels in Cottonwood Creek - Technical brief on grazing, hay production, cropland management and urban development contributed to water quality impairments; implementation of CPs to improve agricultural land management, education and improved stormwater management decreased creek turbidity.
Section 319 Success Story Wisconsin Implementing Agricultural BMPs Restores Coldwater Fisheries in Eagle and Joos Valley Creeks - Technical brief outlining how farmers used agricultural BMPs to limit soil erosion and nutrient loading in addition to stabilizing the streambanks to restore fisheries.
Section 319 NPS Success Story Tennessee Implementing Agricultural Best Management Practices Helps Restore Stream - Technical brief outlining the role farmers played in erosion control and stream restoration (case study from 2008).
Section 319 NPS Success Story Georgia Using Agricultural BMPs Reduces Bacteria - Technical brief: Farmers assisted in improving water quality by installing BMPs on adjacent creeks to the effected water body.
Section 319 NPS Success Story Tennessee Livestock Management Improves DO in Big Sandy - Technical brief: Farmers installed a number of BMPs on pasturelands adjacent to an impaired waterbody that have heavy grazing activity and helped restore healthy DO levels.
Fertilizers and Soils
Keeping the soil healthy is important for food production. Fertilizer overuse can contaminate the soil, surface water and groundwater. Alternatives to commercial fertilizers are available and tend to be much healthier for our environment and safer to use.
Backyard Composting: It's Only Natural - Factsheet on replacing synthetic fertilizers with natural compost material.
Federal Green Challenge Case Study: New Composting Program Boosts Waste Diversion - Navy's NSGL case study on an aggressive approach to divert waste into compost to be used instead of synthetic fertilizer.
Agricultural Uses for Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) Gypsum - Brief on the source and use of FGD gypsum in agriculture as a means of soil conservation and as a fertilizer.
Meta-Analysis of Phosphorus Attenuation in Best Management Practices (BMP) and Low Impact Development (LID) in Urban and Agricultural Areas - Report outlining the analysis of Agricultural BMP and LID can reduce the amount of phosphorus entering waterways and improving overall water and soil quality.
Chemical Advisory: Safe Storage, Handling, and Management of Ammonium Nitrate - Guidelines for the proper storage and use of ammonium nitrate in relation to fertilizer for crops.
Chemical Advisory: Safe Storage, Handling, and Management of Solid Ammonium Nitrate Prills - Guidelines for the proper storage and use of ammonium nitrate prills specifically used as fertilizer for crops or as explosives.
Technical Fact Sheet – Perchlorate - Factsheet providing a brief summary on perchlorate, including properties, environmental/health impacts, guidelines, detection/treatment, and additional information.
Technical Fact Sheet – Tungsten - Factsheet providing a brief summary on tungsten, including properties, environmental/health impacts, guidelines, detection/treatment, and additional information.
Urban Agriculture is part of a local food system where food is produced within an urban area and marketed to consumers within that area. Urban farming can also include animal husbandry (e.g., breeding and raising livestock), beekeeping, aquaculture (e.g., fish farming), aquaponics (e.g., integrating fish farming and agriculture), and non-food products such as producing seeds, cultivating seedlings, and growing flowers. Urban farms can also contribute to the revitalization of abandoned or underutilized urban land, social and economic benefits to urban communities, and beneficial impacts on the urban landscape.
More information from EPA
- Brownfields and Community Supported Agriculture
- Brownfields and Urban Agriculture Reuse Webinars
- Success Story - Urban Farm Harvests Community
- More Success Stories about Brownfields and Land Revitalization Urban Agriculture Projects
- Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook - Guidance for developing a business plan for the startup and operation of an urban farm.
- Aquaponics Business Plan User Guide - Guidance for developing a business plan for the startup and operation of an urban aquaponic farm.
Office of Land and Emergency Management's Land Revitalization Program - Factsheet on EPA’s Land Revitalization Program
Land Revitalization: Urban Agriculture - Factsheet outlining why urban agriculture and reuse of brownfields/vacant lots benefits the environment, creates a source of fresh food, and provides jobs to local communities.
Land Revitalization Program Tools for Communities - Factsheet highlighting tools that have resulted from regional community-based projects with assistance from the Land Revitalization Program. These useful tools can be adapted for use in other communities.
Land Revitalization Factsheet: Improving Urban Soils - Factsheet outlining the process for choosing sites with good quality soil for gardening and soil reconditioning in urban areas.
Land Revitalization Factsheet: Green Infrastructure - Factsheet discussing the green infrastructure options in urban areas to reduce erosion and pollutant discharge into the watershed.
Reusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes: Growing Gardens in Urban Soils - Factsheet provides communities and individuals with general urban gardening information.
Evaluation of Urban Soils: Suitability for Green Infrastructure or Urban Agriculture - Report outlining efforts to revitalize urban soils by looking at green reuses of vacant properties, including parks, green infrastructure, and urban agriculture.
Brownfields and Urban Agriculture: Interim Guidelines for Safe Gardening Practices - Guidelines for safely growing food on former brownfield sites in urban areas.
Former Chesapeake Supply Brownfield Revitalization: Rapid Health Impact Assessment – Report on revitalizing a brownfield in Delaware and to use the site for aquaponics, which is a combination of aquaculture and horticulture.
Brownfields Success Story: Community Led Action to Create the Emerson Street Garden - Report discussing how a vacant lot in Portland, Oregon had been remediated to create healthy soils, proper drainage, and a healthy garden through Groundwork USA and the Urban Waters Initiative.
Elder-Accessible Gardening: A Community Building Option for Brownfields Redevelopment - Report on the engagement of the elderly in urban gardening to promote increased community engagement and wellbeing.
Impacts of Residential Demolition and the Sustainable Reuse of Vacant Lots - Technical brief outlining EPA research on the nature of urban soils in vacant lots and recommendations on restoring vacant lot soils.
Pollinators are animals that pollinate plants, including vegetable and fruit crops. Examples of pollinators include bees, ants, birds, and lizards. Pollinator health is in decline so work is being done to protect these creatures.
More information from USDA
Pollinator Protection Strategic Plan of the Pollinator Protection Team - Report outlining the plan to enhance pollinator protection to protect public health and the environment and in particular to ensure that pollinators are not subject to adverse effects from exposure to pesticides.
We Need Plants. Plants Need Bees. Bee Careful with Pesticides! - Infographic highlighting the importance of bees to agriculture and important pest-control methods without harming bees.
Ecological Effects Test Guidelines OCSPP 850.3020: Honey Bee Acute Contact Toxicity Test - This guide is intended for use in developing data on the acute contact toxicity to honey bees of chemical substances and mixtures.
Ecological Effects Test Guidelines OCSPP 850.3030: Honey Bee Toxicity of Residues on Foliage - This guide is intended for use in developing data on the residual toxicity to honey bees of chemical substances and mixtures.
Ecological Effects Test Guidelines OCSPP 850.3040: Field Testing for Pollinators - This guide is intended for use in developing data on hazards to bees, under actual field conditions, of chemical substances and mixtures.
Pesticides are widely used in the agriculture field to protect crops from pests. For more information about pesticides please visit the links below:
- Pesticide Containers
- Pesticide Label
- Pesticide Storage
- Pesticide Disposal
- Pesticide Tolerances
- Pesticide Worker Safety
- Reducing Pesticide Drift
- Soil Fumigants
Worker Protection Standard (WPS)
EPA's Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is aimed at reducing the risk of pesticide poisoning and injury among agricultural workers and pesticide handlers.
EPA has initiated a process to revise certain requirements in the WPS. By the end of FY2018, EPA expects to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit public input on proposed revisions to the WPS requirements for minimum ages, designated representatives, and application exclusion zones. The compliance dates in the revised WPS published on November 2, 2015, remain in effect; the Agency does not intend to extend them. EPA has published a Federal Register Notice that it has initiated this rulemaking process to revise certain requirements in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard.
- How to Comply with the 2015 Revised Worker Protection Standard for Agricultural Pesticides - Manual on the regulations on using WPS-labeled pesticides in an agricultural setting.
- EPA's June 2018 Issuance of the Delayed Notice of Availability of Farm Worker Protection Training Materials Will Reduce Risks of Injury and Illness - Report outlining the expanded training materials which are intended to reduce exposure to pesticides and provide enhanced protection.
- EPA Needs to Evaluate the Impact of the Revised Agricultural Worker Protection Standard on Pesticide Exposure Incidents - Report making suggestions on certain revisions that need to be made to protect farm workers and pesticide handlers.
- Personal Protective Equipment Guide: Choosing Chemical-Resistant PPE - Guide for pesticide applicators on choosing the best quality PPE to protect themselves from pesticide exposure.
- How Can We Protect Our Families from Pesticides? - Infographic on how to safely deal with pesticides, minimize exposure, and make sure children are safe.
- Fact Sheet: Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides - Updated factsheet on 394 pesticides currently registered for use on food crops or could result in exposure through food or drinking water.
- Ecological Effects Tests Guidelines OCSPP 850.4000: Background and Special Considerations - Tests with Terrestrial and Aquatic Plants, Cyanobacteria, and Terrestrial Soil-Core Microcosms - Guidelines outlining the test procedures and methodology for testing pesticide impacts on non-target plants and other organisms.
- EPA Can Better Reduce Risks From Illegal Pesticides by Effectively Identifying Imports for Inspection and Sampling - Report outlining how low rates of inspection and sampling can create a risk that the EPA may not be identifying or deterring the import of pesticides harmful to the people or the environment.
- New Requirements for Using Dicamba on Genetically Engineered Crops - Factsheet discussing the new dicamba formulations and application restrictions for cotton and soybean growers.
- Pesticides in Flooded Applications Model (PFAM): Conceptualization, Development, Evaluation, and User Guide - Guide to help facilitate risk assessments for pesticides used in a flood-agriculture applications such as rice paddies and cranberry bogs.
- A Model for Predicting Pesticide in Runoff, Erosion, and Leachate: User Manual - Report on the updated computer model for predicting pesticide movements in agricultural settings.