Friday October 14, 2011 by Chuck Quirmbach, WPR News
(UNDATED) The U.S. Agriculture Department says when farmers in the Great Lakes region control erosion and cut fertilizer run-off, local waterways benefit.
The Ag department looked at conservation practices on about 175,000 square miles between 2003 and 2006. The study took samples at more than 1,400 sites. Dave White is chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He says one takeaway message is that conservation methods work.
White says more needs to be done, especially on key acres near waterways. He says various soil erosion and runoff controls work best when part of a system. He also says millions of acres in the Great Lakes basin have high or moderate levels of treatment needs. Ag department scientist Lee Norfleet says he hopes farmers expand their conservation efforts to more crops.
The Ag department can help cover some costs for farmers, but many say they still need to spend much of their own money. Despite all the conservation efforts, water quality problems like algae blooms continue to plague many Midwest lakes, and some of the pollution is coming off farms.
For those of you who want to read more about this study, a summary report of the methodology and findings is available at http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1045481.pdf