Farm Groups Defend Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Plan

Iowa Farm Scene

Criticism of voluntary farmer-led conservation practices is ill-timed and isn't productive, say Iowa farm leaders.

Published on: May 27, 2013

Roger Wolf, ISA director of environmental programs and services and ACWA's executive director, says public statements singling out farmers for not doing their part to positively impact water quality illustrates a lack of engagement in this issue and a lack of understanding. Also, arbitrarily dismissing the intent of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy -- a strategy that is not yet implemented --  is the wrong conclusion.

To say Iowa's voluntary approach lacks goals or measurable outcome is false

"To say the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy lacks goals or measurable outcomes is false," says Wolf. "The strategy is designed to advance a science and technology based framework to direct efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point and nonpoint sources in a scientific, reasonable and cost effective manner. The strategy establishes a goal of at least a 45% reduction in total riverine nitrogen and phosphorous loading leaving the state."

With specific respect to nonpoint sources, including agricultural land uses, combinations of technologies and management practices applied on farms and landscapes across Iowa will need to achieve a 41% load reduction in nitrogen and 29% reduction in phosphorous to meet the aspiring 45% reduction goal.

Farmers and water providers, Wolf says, have been proactive in addressing and protecting Iowa's water quality by employing conservation methods that work in their fields and implementing more advanced purification systems. And while no system is perfect, farmers and stakeholders haven't stopped striving to achieve it.

Finger-pointing isn't productive, say farm groups, who are calling for more cooperation to solve the problem

"Everyone involved in the system -- rural and urban -- has benefited from longstanding relationships," Wolf says. "We should resolve to continue the progress in improving environmental performance to the benefit of all Iowans. In lieu of the recent activities and statements critical of agriculture's commitment to water quality, it's vital that we work in collaboration to seek and develop holistic solutions benefiting both urban and rural residents."

Agriculture's Clean Water Alliance is an association consisting of 12 ag retailers in the fertilizer and crop protection business and three associate members operating in the Des Moines and Raccoon River basins. Since 1999, ACWA members have invested more than $1 million in funding for water quality monitoring in the Raccoon River and, since 2008, in the Des Moines River and their largest tributaries. More than 10,000 water samples have been collected by more than 200 certified and automated samplers. ACWA also funded the first successful real-time nitrate analyzer in Iowa in the Raccoon River. For more information, go to the Agriculure's Clean Water Alliance website.