Tracking the recent farm runoff legislation strategies in Iowa and Minnesota, it becomes clear – to the surprise of few – that attempts to formalize legislation aimed at curbing farm runoff will be met with staunch resistance.
This does not bode well for residences amongst and downstream of agricultural operations. Such operations continue to struggle with controlling the runoff they create from excessive animal manure.
practices for reducing farm runoff. Ag runoff, as has been mentioned many times here, is the primary contributor to harmful algae blooms (HABs). As ever, best practices always include creating sizable grass buffer spaces between cropped land and waterways.
Grass which carries a clear benefit for farmers. It can (and should) be harvested to feed and bed farm animals.
Such a basic strategy makes great sense when proposed in a vacuum. But, for farmers striving to pull every bit of revenue from each acre, such an approach may not always make financial sense. And, clearly, farmers have little interest in more governmental involvement — as is presented regarding Iowa legal battles in this recent article from US News and World Report.
The push-and-pull here is inevitable, oh-so predictable, and the least productive method for solving the nationwide and global challenge of HABs.
What is suggested is, all other things being equal, the rigidity of organic farming standards (some of which are noted below) lend themselves to better land management practices – which may have a positive impact in reducing the nutrient (see: manure) runoff that is largely responsible for Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs). Some standards mentioned are:
All organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants. They may be temporarily confined only for reasons of health, safety,
the animal’s stage of production, or to protect soil or water quality.
Land must have no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop.
Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
According to the study, a challenge the organic farmer with animals faces, which a conventional farmer may not, is keeping pastured animals from directly wading into streams and lakes — instantly polluting the water.
For grazing animals it is important to regulate the extent to which the cows interact with natural waterways. Where livestock have access to these waters there is an increased risk of nutrient losses to surface water.
Clearly the motivation to go organic in farming extends beyond better land management — and the chart above illustrates the financial incentive that may accompany such a move — but there appears to be little doubt that agriculture runoff remains a chief contributor to pollution in Lake Champlain. This is largely consistent across the USA, wherever clean water issues arise.