State Officials Defend Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy

Iowa Farm Scene

Iowa leaders say voluntary approach to reducing farm runoff will work if given a chance.

Published on: July 31, 2013

Northey and Gipp joined Branstad for a ceremonial re-signing of legislation to help fund Iowa's new nutrient reduction plan, money to help get the strategy started. Branstad had originally signed the bill into law a month earlier (on June 17). The bill appropriates $22.4 million in new state funding to help provide cost-share money for farmers and landowners, to encourage and help them put more soil and water conservation practices on the land to improve water quality.

State officials are making the case for a voluntary, not regulatory, nutrient reduction plan

The strategy's recommendations are based on "what science tells us regarding how farmers and landowners can use different combinations of nutrient management practices that will work for their farm, in their particular situation," says Northey. "We encourage farmers to use more of these recommended conservation and management practices to show how the practices can really make a difference in improving water quality."

Northey adds, "Over a period of time, we'll see the innovation that happens in agriculture, as new conservation methods and ways to measure the results are developed, as we try other ways of fertilizing crops and make sure nutrients are used by crops rather than leave the farm. Keeping a voluntary focus with this strategy, we'll see creativity and innovation, which will allow farmers to more aggressively address pollution problems. I think regulation, on the other hand, stops such innovation."

"Dead Zone" in Gulf of Mexico this year is smaller than expected, but still a lot bigger than a federal task force's goal to reduce it

It was announced a week ago that the hypoxia area or "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year is smaller than expected. However, the oxygen-deprived area, which results largely from fertilizer runoff from Midwest fields, covers an area bigger than Connecticut. According to the annual report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium's cruise aboard the Pelican, a ship LUMCONN uses to measure the hypoxia zone, this year's zone covers 5,800 square miles. Scientists had expected a near-record zone of hypoxia of 7,300 or 8,600 square miles because of heavy spring rains in the Midwest and unused fertilizer runoff from last year's corn crop. Last year's yields were reduced by drought so the crop didn't use all the fertilizer that was applied.