Report shows nutrient loss increases in Illinois, despite reduction efforts
A recent report for the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy shows a 13% increase in nitrogen loss and a 35% increase in phosphorus loss over previous baselines.
American Farmland Trust Policy Manager Max Webster tells Brownfield those numbers don’t tell the whole story. He says the report also shows a 25% increase in water flow throughout the state for the reporting period, highlighting the impact climate change is having on nutrient loss.
“Increasing the amount of water flowing out of the state as a result of increased rainfall, but we don’t really have a plan at this point for responding to that and figuring out how we make meaningful progress on nutrient loss understanding that climate change is something that we are going to be dealing with for a very long time.”
Webster says in the past two years more than 110 partner organizations have supported the strategy with more than $27 million of resources implemented on farm fields across the state, so the agriculture sector is putting in their fair share of work.
Webster applauds efforts like the IDOA’s Fall Cover for Spring Savings Program but says more government funding will be needed to meet the strategy’s interim goal of 25% phosphorus reductions and 15% nitrogen reductions by 2025 and prevent any mandatory regulations on farming practices. He says now is the time for policy makers to get serious about financially supporting these efforts.
“We aren’t always talking about huge investments that policymakers need to make but they are critical investments and they do help out. It creates opportunity for farmers to be compensated and awarded for the good work they are doing while also addressing bigger problems that exist.”
The report shows the number of cover crop acres reported to the Farm Service Agency jumped from nearly 93,000 in 2018 up to more than 427,000 in 2019 but fell to under 132,000 in 2020. The number of acres in Conservation Reserve Program perennials, energy and pasture jumped by more than half a million from 2018 to 2019 with a slight decrease in 2020. The report also shows steady enrollment of CRP wetlands and buffers.