Agencies push for more nutrient reductions

EPA and USDA offer collective resources, technical and financial support to help states engage in local solutions.

By Deana Stroisch

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA last week urged states across the country to increase efforts to reduce excess nutrients in waterways and offered help to do so.

In a letter to state co-regulators, federal officials noted significant progress has been made in reducing excess nutrients in some watersheds but nationally available water quality data shows “nutrient pollution continues to be widespread, particularly in the Mississippi River Basin.”

“The EPA and the USDA recognize that making progress in nutrient management depends largely, if not entirely on the efforts of state, tribal and local programs working in partnership with stakeholders,” according to the letter signed by David Ross, EPA’s assistant administrator for the office of water, and Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

Ross and Northey offered technical and financial support, including mobilizing federal research and implementation funding and creative problem solving. “However, at the end of the day, reducing excess nutrients in watersheds will require local solutions,” they wrote. “To that end, the agencies are committed to engaging with local stakeholders, leveraging our collective resources and helping to remove regulatory or other barriers that impede progress in this space.”

Lauren Lurkins, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of natural and environmental resources, called it a “very bold statement.”

“I love that they are really looking at ways for the federal government to support our state agencies and local opportunities,” she said. “It’s not ‘You have to do this’ but ‘We’re here for you.’ That’s not the traditional approach of the U.S. EPA on this issue. I think it sets a very positive tone.”

Ross and Northey encouraged each state environmental and agricultural agency to work with EPA and USDA to identify local opportunities and challenges to reducing nutrients in watersheds.

Illinois Farm Bureau continues to make implementation of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy a priority. IFB has conducted more than 230 field days, workshops, webinars and presentations to educate approximately 39,000 farmers, landowners, educators and agricultural partners.