For those not in agriculture or in central Iowa, you may not have heard about last night’s Des Moines Water Works vote to sue several Iowa counties for water pollution. I have to admit that a little over a year ago while living in the metro area, I probably would have dismissed this story as a boring piece on a public utility. Today, I consider this an alarming act that threatens our family’s farm.
The Des Moines Water Works is favoring hostile action and disregarding the current collaborative efforts of farmers to improve water quality through the “Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.” This is a science based framework developed by Iowa State University, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to reduce the nutrient run-off flowing through our waterways (Source: Iowa State University). That is really just a fancy way of saying that this is a plan to keep as many of the nutrients in our fields as possible. This includes those that we apply through cattle or hog manure and through commercial fertilizers.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again . . . farmers want those nutrients. We don’t want them going anywhere. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy has provided Farmers with scientifically proven practices to help us achieve those goals. These strategies include everything from when to apply manure to planting cover crops. Farmers are being actively educated on the benefits of these practices and determining what actions will work the best for their operation. It’s not an overnight action and it will not achieve an overnight results (unlike the Water Work’s buzz worthy lawsuit).
Farmers are getting the message too. In the last two years, our operation has implemented the use of cover crops and strip tilling. We looked at the science and decided it was good for our yields and the environment. In Iowa, the number of cover crop acres has increased from fewer than 10,000 acres in 2009 to about 300,000 acres in 2013 (Source: Practical Farmers of Iowa). This was all done without litigation which threatened to impose additional rules and regulations on farmers.
In my humble opinion, working together to solve the problem will bear more fruit than pitting the city folks against the country crowd. I hate to see my great state be divided in this water fight. We are all Iowans who want the best for our state. We want to protect our natural resources while maintaining a vital economy by providing world class grains and livestock.