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Iowa Soybean Association uses Chesapeake as cautionary tale
By JONATHAN CRIBBS
ANKENY, Iowa (Nov. 10, 2015) — The Iowa Soybean Association released late last month a report on water pollution that used the Chesapeake Bay watershed to show that a regulatory approach isn’t the best or only way to improve water quality.
The multi-part series, “Contrasting Currents,” compares efforts to improve the Bay’s water quality with similar efforts in Iowa.
Regulatory efforts geared toward the Bay and surrounding waters is often brought up in debates over water quality in Iowa and the Gulf of Mexico and agriculture’s impact on it, said Aaron Putze, communications director at the association.
The report, he said, was “a fact-finding mission.”
“The key takeaway from the project was that there’s just no one silver bullet here,” he said. “Sometimes I think there are people here in Iowa who are not fans of the (Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy) who say, ‘We need a regulatory approach. That’s going to make us the quickest, the fastest,’ and we know that’s not necessarily true either.”
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a voluntary program for farmers to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous loadings in Iowan waters and the gulf by 45 percent from point (wastewater treatment plants) and nonpoint (farmers’ fields) sources.
It includes cost share programs for cover crops and encourages practices ranging from buffer strips and no-till farming to ponds and sediment bases and bioreactors.
Two writers from the association traveled to the Bay area for a week, Putze said, and spoke with more than a dozen farmers and government and environmental officials, including Royden Powell, a Maryland assistant secretary of agriculture, and Nick DiPasquale, director of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
“We’re making progress in reducing nitrogen (and other pollutants) but not as much as we would like,” DiPasquale said in the report. “We’re on our way to meeting standards. By 2025, will we meet (them)? No, it will take time. It could be decades later before we have total compliance to the water quality standards.
“It does take a while for point sources and even longer for nonpoint sources.”
Iowa farmers must continue to implement strategies that improve water quality or they could find themselves in a tougher regulatory environment, Putze said.
“If we do not move forward in a way that shows quantifiable progress then there will be regulatory strategies put in place that may not provide the kind of flexibility to both manage water resources and remain productive and competitive.”
The full report can be found online at www.iasoybeans.com/ContrastingCurrents/.