The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently published a study on nitrogen in surface waters. The study was a collaborative effort led by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with assistance from the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Geological Survey. The report team used more than 50,000 water samples collected at 700 stream sites and used 35 years of monitoring data and findings from 300 published studies.
The most disturbing finding from this study is that 70% of nitrogen in Minnesota waterways is from cropland. Why is this important? Nitrogen in the Mississippi is creating a giant dead zone at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen can also contaminate drinking water and damage human health. Finally high loads of nitrogen are toxic to fish and other aquatic life in our lakes and rivers.
What does the MPCA suggest to mitigate these risks? They suggest restoring wetlands, diversification of plant species and planting perennial's (i.e. Native Grasses) on marginal lands. Sounds eerily similar to the platform and mission of Pheasants Forever. These strong mitigation's all originate with strong, broad farm conservation programs. At a time when levels of pollutants are so high why are we calling for extensions of crop insurance and subsidies to farmers? What we need are stronger conservation measures to insure clean water for human health and all aquatic species.