Efforts to stem the flow of nitrogen and phosphate into the national watershed have been mandated by the EPA, but so far, no hard and fast regulations are in place. Instead, EPA has allowed state Departments of Agriculture to encourage growers to take their own steps according to their own individual on farm programs.
This was a great way for EPA to approach the issue because every farm is different and what works for farmer Fred may not work on farmer Philip's farm. Blanket regulations would do more harm than good at this point and while present successes may be used to draft future recommendations, a great deal of progress has been made toward reducing soil erosion and N&P runoff.
"Farmers and ranchers work hard to conserve the land and water, and [Tuesday's] report shows the tremendous impact they've had for the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico," noted U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We need to keep up the momentum by providing scientific and technical expertise that supports conservation in agriculture."
Vilsack was speaking in response to positive data from the lower Mississippi River region which includes Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The data showed that conservation work in that area like controlling erosion and astute nutrient management have reduced edge-of-field losses of sediment by 35%, nitrogen by 21% and phosphorous by 52%.
All this comes on the heels of a very wet spring and early summer in the north that threatened to wash sediment and N&P in large quantities into the watershed. What researchers found was the opposite, however.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gives this voluntary effort his stamp of approval, and efforts on the part of growers are yielding reduced runoff. Moving forward, other states will look to adopt and implement those practices which have served the southland well.