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What Happens on IA Farms Should Stay on IA Farms

May 28, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - One of the biggest expenses for Iowa farmers is the fertilizer they apply to their cropland. And sometimes, that fertilizer barely stays put where it belongs before heavy rains, like we had this weekend, wash it into rivers and downstream to the Mississippi River. It ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, where it collects, and eventually kills aquatic life.

Farmers such as Mark Peterson, who farms near Stanton, are taking steps to keep fertilizer on the farm by using cover crops and bumper strips. According to Peterson, this makes him a friend of Gulf fishermen.

"I guess I would consider myself to be, these days, a 'shrimp hugger.' When I explain, as I say, that our runoff goes to the Gulf and helps to, unfortunately, increase that 'dead zone' down there, anything we can do to cut down on that makes the fishing better down there - and that makes me a shrimp hugger," he declared.

Peterson stated tht Iowa farmers need to take steps to keep what is applied to Iowa cropland, on Iowa cropland, making it less likely the government will step in and require them to do so.

"I think if we work voluntarily and try and do it on our own and perhaps get this reduced right now, we can stay away from getting into regulation," he said.

Peterson said putting in cover crops stops erosion, lowers input costs and saves the fishing industry in portions of the Gulf of Mexico. Locally, it also reduces the nitrates that are overwhelming some city water departments, trying to remove them from drinking water. He said upcoming Field Days sponsored by the Practical Farmers of Iowa will give farmers a chance to share solutions to the problem.

A Field Day schedule is online at PracticalFarmers.org.

Richard Alan, Public News Service - IA