Voluntary Programs Fail to Clean
Up Iowa’s Dirty Water
A recent study by the Environmental Working Group found little or no benefit after taxpayers invested billions of dollars on voluntary farm conservation incentive programs. EWG researchers looked at aerial photos of land in eight “priority watersheds” that are part of the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. What they found was unsettling. While it was true that they found a small amount of additional conservation practices on the land, they also found many cases where farmers abandoned previous voluntary conservation practices. So in the end, after spending $3 billion in Iowa, conservation on the land is right back where we started, with little or no net gain in landscape conservation, and with water pollution, the same or worse than it was ten years ago.
Between 2011 and 2014, farmers added 45 acres of new buffers, but they plowed up 119 acres of buffers, resulting in a loss of 74 acres of streamside buffers. During the same time period, farmers added 26 miles of grassed waterways, but they plowed up 21 miles, leading to an increase if just 5 miles of waterways.
“We are just fooling ourselves by clinging to the hope that voluntary conservation measures will clean up Iowa’s water. Instead we need to set standards that restrict the most damaging activities, which can often be solved by simple and conventional practices,” said the report. You can view the report at :www.ewg.org/research/fooling-ourselves
According to EWG Researchers, All Farmers Should be Required to Implement Four Basic Conservation Practices
¨ Keep 50 feet of vegetation between cropland and waterways to filter polluted runoff
¨ Heal or prevent temporary gullies (with grassed waterways or water control structures)
¨ Keep livestock out of rivers and streams
¨ Ban manure spreading on snow-covered or frozen ground