The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has requested that 12 states along the Mississippi River take steps to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous runoff into the Gulf of Mexico. Iowa is the second state in the nation to release a document toward that end, behind Mississippi.
The voluntary strategy asks the state to seek ways of reducing N&P runoff by encouraging growers to examine application rates and timing, and implement positive changes on the individual farm to help clean up the nation's waterways.
Although no specific mandate has been suggested, the specter of government regulation of nutrient application looms in the background of the ongoing discussion. I spoke to Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey who feels that regulation would not only be too restrictive to account for the wide variety of soil types represented across the Corn Belt, but would fail to give growers the freedom to fertilize their crops as their individual programs require.
Northey commented, "We now have science that can suggest real-live reductions with certain practices. We'd love to see those going on. I was at a meeting to discuss this with growers and a comment that was made at the end of the meeting was -- 'nobody talked about regulations coming someday and he said, that's why I care about this.' I care about this because I believe that if we don't do this, regulations are going to come."
Northey and his office are working closely with a number of state and federal agencies to collect information and encourage growers to start including nutrient runoff reduction into their thought process.
Northey continued, "Farmers need to face this straight on. If folks are just not doing anything, then I think we are more likely to see somebody say, 'see you couldn't get it done without forcing farmers to do it.'"
Your Inputs Monitor looks forward to continued discussions with Secretary Northey, and as the conversation continues, growers have the opportunity to examine their own efforts to reduce N&P runoff, and increase nutrient efficiency on the farm.
View the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and enter your comments here.