Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and other state officials defended the new Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy when they spoke at a soil and water conservation field day recently in Madison County. The conservation tour was held on the farm of Frederick and Helen Martens near Winterset. The statewide strategy takes a voluntary, farmer-led approach to reducing the amount of nitrate and phosphorus leaving Iowa farm fields.
The strategy recommends best management practices and its goal is to reduce the amount of nutrients entering streams and rivers in Iowa and ending up in the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrients originating from Iowa and other states in the Mississippi River Basin are contributing to the Gulf's hypoxia problem which is hurting the fishing industry there.
Recently finalized, the Iowa nutrient reduction plan is now moving into implementation phase. Farmers and landowners are being urged to adopt recommended soil conservation and fertilizer management practices to improve water quality. Critics of the strategy say it needs to be regulatory, not voluntary, if it is to achieve its goals.
Critics of the Iowa nutrient reduction plan are calling for more regulations which they say are needed to improve water quality
The critics include environmental groups, as well as the director of the City of Des Moines Water Works and others. Critics of the strategy blame farmers for the state's impaired waterways, saying farmers apply too much fertilizer and manure to fields, which runs off with soil erosion or leaves fields via tile drainage. An increasing number of people are calling for more regulations and fines on farmers and landowners, as a way to clean up the state's impaired streams and rivers.