Friday, January 04, 2008

Reducing farms' fertilizer runoff has big price tag

Major reductions in fertilizer runoff from farm fields in Iowa, to help the state's waterways, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, would cost 41 percent more than current measures, according to a study by Iowa State University.

Perry Beeman of The Des Moines Register writes, "It would cost $613 million per year to cut farm-field phosphorus runoff by 40 percent and nitrates by 25 percent," as the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed. The study by ISU's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development "also found that the seven most common conservation techniques already used in Iowa cost a combined $435 million a year."

"Water quality has become a huge issue in Iowa," where streams "have some of the highest fertilizer concentrations in the world, leaving the water green with algae and with a lower diversity of fish than clean water would support," Beeman writes. "EPA is requiring states to come up with the nation's first limits on nitrogen and phosphorus, which occur naturally and also are main ingredients of fertilizer. . . . Nitrates are a health threat at high levels in drinking water, and cause a low-oxygen 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico each summer. Phosphorus feeds algae blooms that can stress or kill fish when the algae suck up oxygen as they decompose." (Read more)

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