Nutrient Regulations: The possibility in Illinois has farmers on edge. With regulations in the Chesapeake Bay and Ohio, and litigation in Iowa, it seems inevitable that it’s just a matter of time in Illinois. But take heart: What we’re doing in Illinois gives us the best possible chance of retaining our freedom to choose best management practices and achieving the goals outlined in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. Here’s how we’ve done it:
1. Illinois is broke. That’s a terrible thing, but this stark reality was a catalyst that led to the creation of the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC). Illinois agriculture came together to create NREC, and it assures that an assessment on fertilizer sales is invested in research and education focused on improving nutrient utilization and protecting our environment. NREC funds cannot be swept, so we don’t have to worry about whether the money will be there. With NREC, Illinois agriculture took control and put money on the table to address the challenge when it was clear it wasn’t going to come from anyplace else.
2. We partner with environmental groups, point sources, water suppliers and regulatory agencies. Groups that we used to think of as adversaries (and vice versa) are now part of the daily conversations we have on nutrient issues, and they have seats on NREC. This may seem controversial, but most things in life are best resolved through relationships and partnerships. If you think about some of the great compromises in history, they usually came about when powerful groups or persons with differing opinions managed to communicate, negotiate and act upon the things they could agree upon. We all want to protect water quality. I would argue that this collaboration has, more than anything else, kept regulations and litigation in Illinois at bay. We are the only state with a privatized, collaborative nutrient research program.
We’ve been successful to-date, but the next step is to make measurable progress. We have to implement and document nutrient BMPs and conservation practices in the coming months and years. We can’t just talk about it, we have to do it and we have to prove it. For farmers, fertilizer retailers and crop advisers, every decision made about nutrient use must include the goal of reducing losses by approximately 225 million pounds of nitrogen and 18 million pounds of phosphorus. The upside is that we keep these nutrients for the crop. That is what they are intended for and the return on our investment in this effort is substantial: We enhance production, hedge against the cost of lawsuits and regulation and prove that we are fully capable of making the right decisions in a free society. Visit www.Keepit4RCrop.org where IFCA has a new 4R Code of Practice and various programs to get us there, together.
Jean Payne is currently the President of the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association.