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Hypoxia Report Shows Progress and Need to Continue Reduction of Nutrient Losses page banner

Hypoxia Report Shows Progress and Need to Continue Reduction of Nutrient Losses

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 8:29 AM by Iowa Corn

A recent evaluation of the 2008 Hypoxia Task Force Action Plan shows positive progress over the past five years by targeting funds where they are most needed, increasing agricultural conservation practices, developing state nutrient reduction strategies, and improving science and monitoring of water quality in the Mississippi River watershed. The report recommends the Task Force work to accelerate implementation of nutrient reduction activities and identify ways to measure progress at a variety of scales, from small streams to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The Hypoxia Task Force, who met on September 24th in Minneapolis, MN and is made up of members from five federal agencies and twelve state agencies, is working to address environmental concerns associated with the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia zone. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey serves as co-chair of the Task Force.

  “This report does a good job showing the significant progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done. Iowa continues to be a leader in the adoption of voluntary, science-based practices that address nitrogen and phosphorus loading contributing to the hypoxic zone. Through the newly created Iowa Water Quality Initiative we will have nearly 1100 Iowa farmers putting their own money towards trying new practices this fall aimed at protecting water quality here in Iowa and down-stream to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Northey.

  Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy was finalized this past May, and the legislature and Governor approved over $20 million to implement it. The response from Iowa farmers has been tremendous with nearly 1100 farmers signing up for a new cost share program to implement cover crops, reduced tillage, and nitrification inhibitors. As the report indicates, acceleration in adopting nutrient reduction practices is needed. All Iowa farmers are being asked to consider conservation practices that reduce nutrient losses to water.

  The report is an evaluation of the Task Force’s progress in implementing its 2008 Action Plan. Results include:

·    States are making progress in nutrient reduction strategies: The Task Force continues to focus on drafting and implementing state nutrient reduction strategies. Five states – Mississippi, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio – have finalized or released drafts of nutrient reduction strategies. The remaining seven states expect to have at least draft strategies completed by early 2014.

·    Assistance for conservation practices is strong: The U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to provide strong assistance for conservation practices through a variety of actions including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). The MRBI uses key conservation practices, such as nutrient management, cover crops, and tillage management, to address water quality concerns. By the end of fiscal year 2013, the MRBI will have targeted $341 million across 123 projects and 640 small watersheds.
·    Science and monitoring continues to improve: In the past few years the Task Force has improved the scientific tools used in the Mississippi River watershed, including establishing a long-term water quality monitoring network, using models to increase understanding of nutrient loadings, and coordinating hypoxic zone research. This allows for more precise targeting of efforts to reduce nutrient pollution and measurement of results from those activities.

·    Goal for reducing hypoxic zone in Gulf of Mexico remains reasonable: Despite improvements and significant investments to reduce nutrient pollution, the goal of reducing the size of the hypoxic zone to 5,000 square kilometers is unlikely to be achieved in 2015. The size of the dead zone for the past five years has averaged 14,807 square kilometers. However, the science shows the goal remains reasonable.

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