Brooks

Karl Brooks, Region 7 adminstrator for the Environmental Protection Agency spoke about water issues during an event at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa on Aug. 27, 2014. (Journal photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

Farmers are concerned about the potential changes by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the waters of the United States.

EPA Region 7 administrator Karl Brooks visited the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, Aug. 27, to discuss some of these changes with farmers.

“This is the perfect place to talk about water quality. For 44 years, the EPA has been a partner with American agriculture to promote healthier waters and cut nutrient pollution,” said Brooks. “Iowa has been a leader in improving water quality, and Iowa’s secretary of agriculture Bill Northey has been a national leader on making these improvements.”

The Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972, was set up to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters by preventing point and non-point pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.

Brooks said the Clean Water Act has given the U.S. a basic casework for what needs done to improve the nation’s waters.

“In agriculture, we have had to figure out how to deal with the prevention of different sources of pollution,” Brooks said. “Many operations have permits and strict rules to follow, but there can still be sources that are difficult to control.”

The issues of water quality are not just seen at the Gulf of Mexico, but also in many local water sources.

In 2013, Iowa State University released results for a nutrient control strategy. While they know it’s not a one-size-fits-all issue, they promote a variety of different practices to help reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loads.

Brooks said cover crops can help prevent pollution and the number of acres of cover crops planted has quadrupled in the past year.

“Given the commitment that Iowans have made with water quality issues over the past few years, we need to find a way to measure and monitor the results,” Brooks said.

On Aug. 25, the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association announced the creation of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA). The purpose of the group is to increase farmer awareness of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and their adoption of science-based practices proven to have environmental benefits.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Northey and Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp said they recognize the critical role farmers play in the success of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the role the alliance will serve in facilitating their engagement and participation.

“Farmers are problem solvers and they rise to any challenge,” Branstad said. “Iowa’s approach to positively impacting water quality as established in the nutrient reduction strategy is unprecedented nationally in both its scope and scale. The alliance will generate additional momentum to the benefit of all Iowans, rural and urban.”

Sean McMahon will serve at the executive director of IAWA. He said to create more food than American farmers ever have before, water will be a critical part in the equation.

“Iowa producers have a crucial role to play in helping meet the growing domestic and international demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel, and they can do so in an increasingly sustainable manner,” McMahon said.

Organizational leaders say the alliance will leverage private partnerships and investments to ramp up public support. The nutrient reduction strategy, they say, is still in it’s early implementation and private support is critical to boost long-term investments and progress.

For more information on the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, visit www.iowaagwateralliance.com.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120 or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

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