A broad based, statewide and strategic plan to reduce nutrients in Iowa's waters and the Gulf of Mexico was unveiled for public comment on November 19 by Gov. Terry Branstad at a press conference in Des Moines. The strategy, which aims to reduce runoff pollution from Iowa farms, has the support of the Iowa Soybean Association.
The much-anticipated Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy proposes a first-of-its-kind framework for reducing nutrients loads discharged from the state's largest wastewater treatment facilities in combination with targeted practices to reduce loads from non-point sources, including agriculture. The plan establishes a goal of at least a 45% reduction each in total riverine nitrogen and phosphorous loadings.
Just-released nutrient management strategy backed by Iowa Soybean Association
Mark Jackson, ISA president and farmer from Rose Hill in southeast Iowa, says the draft strategy is a science and technology-based approach that recognizes the diversity of the state's topography and complexities of individual watersheds. Rather than pursuing a costly, one-size-fits-all approach to improving water quality, it recognizes and seeks to duplicate on a larger scale effective, voluntary practices in conjunction with research, development and demonstration of new approaches.
"Every Iowan lives in a watershed," says Jackson. "Therefore, any effort to improve water quality must be holistic, pragmatic and involve multiple stakeholders including agriculture, industry and municipalities. The plan unveiled by the governor on November 19 meets those criteria as we work together to make water quality improvements in Iowa and downstream to the Gulf of Mexico."
The nutrient reduction strategy was prompted by a 2008 Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan that calls for 12 states along the Mississippi River to reduce nutrient loadings to the Gulf of Mexico. The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources worked with Iowa State University for more than two years to develop the strategy. Key to this work was the coordination of a scientific assessment to identify and model the effectiveness of specific practices at reducing Nitrogen and Phosphorous from reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The report also estimated the cost and cost-per-unit of nutrient removed when implementing each practice.
Farmers prefer emphasis on voluntary efforts to continue reductions in nutrient pollution
Jackson recognized the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University for creating the draft plan's framework, one that emphasizes voluntary efforts to continue reductions in non-point source nutrient loading.
"An issue this complex and of this scale and scope requires that those people who are most knowledgeable take the lead in developing potential solutions," he says. "The Iowa Soybean Association supports the work done thus far by Ag Secretary Bill Northey, DNR Director Chuck Gipp and Dr. John Lawrence of Iowa State University. Iowa's soybean farmers look forward to playing a key role in developing the final plan."
Following a 45-day comment period, operational plans will be developed to establish tactics to underpin the overall strategy. Participants in the initial framework say it remains a dynamic document that will change over time as new information, data and science is discovered and adopted.
Iowans can review the strategy and provide feedback through Jan. 4, 2013. To review the full report, access additional information and offer comments, click here.