“Alarming rate” of soil erosion and nutrient runoff

Six environmental organizations reviewed an agricultural pollution report issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and sounded an alarm.

Illinois is more than “200 years from reaching nutrient pollution reduction goals,” the group’s report stated.

The report “confirms long-held concerns that soil erosion and harmful pollution associated with agriculture is continuing at an alarming rate. Nitrates and phosphorus are increasing –– the opposite of the direction we should be moving –– and the consequences are serious both here in Illinois, down the Mississippi River and across the world.”

The group report also found “another alarming observation –– that public funding for educational outreach programs aimed at expanding the use of cover crops had decreased over the last few years, setting us far behind our nutrient pollution goals. To reach our goals, Illinois will need to increase its support for farmers to incorporate conservation into their farms.”

By contrast, a press release assessing the report issued by IEPA and Illinois Department of Agriculture finds “continued progress.”

“The report illustrates all facets of agriculture coming together to promote best management practices,” said John Sullivan, Department of Agriculture Director. “The next step is transitioning more farmers from awareness of nutrient loss practices to application.”

The Illinois Environmental Council issued this statement to Community Word in response to our question why the environmental groups and IEPA came to such different conclusions about the report:

“While we celebrate all the work of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Protection and farmers across the state to help move us closer toward our Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy goals, the real story the data in the report tells is concerning. Despite the successes of many partnerships and programs on the ground, nitrate loads have increased by 7% and our phosphorus loads have increased by 26%.

Our leaders need to feel urgency about what is at stake, recognizing how far behind we are in our plan to protect our drinking water from contamination, communities from toxic algal blooms and industries and wildlife from a growing deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico. Frankly, our leaders need to do more to prioritize water quality in Illinois through increased resources and they need to do it quickly or else we’ll continue to fall farther behind and what is now concerning, will only become more dire over time.”

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