Title: 1995 Ag-Environmental: Burt McKee
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
Environmental stewardship. The end-results are most evident on the farms where these programs have been implemented. But often there are dedicated professionals who labor behind the scenes to help growers achieve these positive outcomes. Burt McKee is one of those professionals. With boundless energy and perseverance, he works diligently to bring growers and regulatory agencies together on common ground to accomplish common good.
Burt McKee: I work with a variety of regulatory agencies, virtually anybody that potentially can impact a grower. Then I will try to go and develop these synergies; and all I am is a facilitator to try to bring the parties together to accomplish it.
As vice president for environmental and regulatory services for United AgriProducts, Burt McKee is recognized as one of the nation's leading agricultural-environmental experts. Building on the reputation for excellence he gained in Florida, he now covers a 26-state territory.
McKee analyzes complicated information and presents it in a format easily utilized by Florida growers.
Burt McKee: One of the things that I try to accomplish is to take complex legislation and then try to put it down into some simplified format. All I've ever claimed to be is a hillbilly from Alabama, and I try to get things down to where I can understand them. Then if I can understand them, then I can go and I can present them to other people.
McKee stays abreast of federal, state and local regulations governing pesticide use, emergency planning, worker protection and other issues -- and interprets their impact on growers. One way of disseminating this information is through his newsletter, "Environmental Update."
Burt McKee: This helps keep me current. If I've got information going everywhere, I get information. Growers share information with me. Other states share information with me. And then I can become more effective in what I do.
McKee's typical day is a whirlwind of activity. His "office" is wherever he is at the moment -- a pay phone, a farming operation, his truck. Wherever he's needed, he can be found sharing information and suggesting solutions.
Burt McKee: Many times we try go in and we say now here's something that's coming. And this is how we think this is going to impact you and this is how you can prepare for it. You can begin now or you can wait until it comes and then see what happens. But if you'll do A, B, C, D essentially you'll be in compliance at the time this thing comes out. Then you're gonna continue to do what you do best, which is grow.
Burt McKee: Teaching is one of the most important aspects of what I do; there's no one out there that can't be taught.
McKee the teacher often finds his students provide the genesis for new and beneficial programs. One such program, sparked by a question from a Florida grower, is the disposal and reuse of plastic pesticide containers. United Agri-Products and the Ag Container Research Council developed a procedure in which properly rinsed containers are collected and chipped into fragments that can be recycled. The chipper is provided by UAP -- at no cost -- anywhere it's needed for container collection. Educational outreach sessions inform growers of the benefits of this service.
McKee played a crucial role in Operation Clean Sweep. Working with government agencies, ag representatives, chemical distributors and citrus growers, he laid the groundwork to provide a grower-friendly process for the collection and disposal of lead arsenate, a pesticide canceled for use on citrus.
Burt McKee: If people want to, they can accomplish great things. If they will become a team, if they'll put self last and the interest of all first, you're going to accomplish what you want.
I have a deep love for the American grower. And sort of started out with humble beginnings of picking cotton and picking oranges and that kind of thing. I have a lot of respect for growers. I know what they're doing and I know that their job is difficult. And that they need some help in some areas. And it's very rewarding to be able to do that. It’s probably the best job in the world.