Over the last decade, farmers have been employing some of the most innovative practices in history to reduce nutrient losses and protect the nation’s rivers, lakes and streams. And the research shows that we’re making a difference, as water quality is improving across the country.
That’s why I am perplexed by recent news coverage claiming runoff from fertilizer use is causing problems in the nation’s waterways. These stories run counter to the facts being released by some of the country’s most reputable groups in this space.
Here are just a few snippets of what these groups are saying:
- The US Geological Survey, which monitors the loads of nutrients being delivered to the Gulf of Mexico, reports that the 5-year moving average of total nitrogen load in America’s streams has steadily declined since 2009.
- The US Army Corps of Engineers, working with the USGS and others, issued a report in June 2022 providing a 15-year update on the health of the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. It reported that “In most of the river system, water in the main channel has become clearer. In parts of the river system, water has become clearer and aquatic plants more abundant, improving habitat for some fish and wildlife. Reduced sediment …total phosphorus concentrations have declined… system continues to support diverse and abundant fishes.”
- The Chesapeake Bay Program reported in 2022 that nitrogen loads to the Bay had decreased 14%, meeting 49% of the 2025 goal. Phosphorus loads also had decreased 14%, meeting 64% of the goal. Sediment had decreased 4%, meeting 100% of the goal.
I invite the media to report on the real story here, which is that farmers have taken the lead in implementing environmentally smart farming practices. This includes the use of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers, variable-rate planting and fertilization practices, conservation tillage systems and crop rotation and cover crop use.
This story may not give readers the usual scandal-ridden coverage that sells newspapers, but it would provide readers with a realistic look at the work that is being done to address these issues. I am always available to tell this story to any reporter who calls.
Here's to innovative farming!