Ag Policy Blog
Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

Wednesday 02/13/13

Missouri Examines Nutrients Reduction

Nutrient reduction work similar to the proposed plan in the state of Iowa, has started in Missouri as a committee headed by the University of Missouri-Columbia is trying to get a handle on how much of nutrients loading flows from the state to the Gulf of Mexico.

Missouri officials are looking what would be the best ways to cut back nutrients runoff.

The Missouri Nutrient Reduction Strategy Committee made up of 31 organizations and experts, formed in 2011 when the Environmental Protection Agency offered grants to states in the Mississippi River Basin to develop and implement nutrient reduction strategies.

Bob Broz, a University of Missouri extension assistant professor and member of the committee, said in a news release that it is important to understand the source of nutrients.

"We're looking at non-point source pollution such as fertilizer use, and we're looking at point source pollution that is produced under different permitting processes," Broz said in a statement.

He said non-point-source pollution accounts for about 90% of the nutrient load. Broz said it is difficult to determine the precise sources of non-point source pollution.

Nutrients going into the ocean promote excessive algae growth. When that algae starts dying off, decomposition of all that plant matter removes oxygen from the water, Broz said. Last year the hypoxia zone measured about 8,500 square miles, according to the news release.

"From the agriculturalist point of view, if we have that kind of nitrogen and phosphorus going down the river, it means we've wasted money and we're not making effective use of our fertilizer," he said.

"If we can reduce the loads, in the long run it will save producers money to produce their crop and increase their profitability."

Broz said several things will need to work hand in hand to make nutrients reduction successful.

"One of them is getting word out to the people and asking them what strategies they are willing to do," he said.

"Second is finding potential funding sources to implement practices that would reduce the load. Variable-rate application of nutrients could be one of them. Cover crops may be another one that can actually reduce the commercial fertilizer load."

EPA is asking similar groups across the basin to come up with plans to generate 45% reduction in nutrients runoff.

"If it is not cost-effective, it is going to be very hard to sell this to the average producer," Broz said in a statement.

"If it is cost-effective, then the chances of them implementing something and continuing it for long-term water quality is considerably better, especially if we can do it without hurting profitability or production numbers."

The state of Iowa recently closed a public-comment period on a proposed voluntary nutrients reduction strategy. That plan has faced criticism from environmental groups and others who believe nutrients reduction should be achieved through regulation.

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Posted at 10:21AM CST 02/13/13 by Todd Neeley
Comments (2)
I just gave a "farmers perspective" to the Corridor Conservation Coalition here in Eastern Iowa on Monday. Sierra Club President loudly proclaimed afterwards that regulations must occur now. Others have trouble understanding why ag should be treated differently than point sources. I couldn't make them understand that weather is our variant and field and tile runoff would be impossible to monitor in all but a very few locations. Apparently, regulations are a mindset that will prevail.
Posted by Curt Zingula at 8:01AM CST 02/14/13
Not to deny there are in fact issues and some problems in the food production industry. I question whether some self appointed saviors of the environment will ever acknowledge that, such areas as the greater Chicago area, generates about 20% of the hypoxia issue in the Gulf.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:17PM CST 02/14/13
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