DES MOINES, IOWA (May 26, 2023) — The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) this week launched a new website, decliningdecade.org, marking the tenth anniversary of the state’s taxpayer-funded nutrient reduction strategy (NRS). Agricultural businesses and organizations heavily invested in the status quo implementation of the NRS have been celebrating “Iowa’s Defining Decade” throughout the month with field days in a variety of locations, as well as a new website sharing stories of progress. However, those critical of the voluntary approach of the NRS have reason to be skeptical of the data being touted as “progress.”
"Any ‘celebration’ of the first ten years of the NRS is a distraction from the real conversation we should be having about water quality and fertilizer pollution in Iowa,” said Alicia Vasto, Water Program Director at IEC. “Until we regulate fertilizer and manure application and mandate basic standards of care like riparian buffers and no-till, we will never reach the goals of the NRS.”
DecliningDecade.org counters the propaganda of Big Ag by:
- Highlighting the glacial rate of conservation practice implementation. Even when considering the recent Polk County “batch and build” initiative, at current rates of bioreactor and saturated-buffer installation, it will still take more than 6,000 years to reach NRS goals.
- Providing critical context for many of the statistics being publicized by ag groups. For example, although ag groups claim that three million acres of cover crops have been implemented across Iowa, they fail to mention that at least twelve million (half of Iowa’s row crop acres) are necessary to reach NRS goals. Proponents of the NRS are also not transparent that the three-million-acre figure was estimated from cover crop seed sales and is not a metric of actual cover crop acres on the ground.
- Recommending reasonable, substantive updates to the NRS that would lead to real progress toward water-quality improvement. Since before 2013, IEC has called for benchmarks and criteria to ensure tax-payer dollars are spent prudently and that efforts will result in measurable improvements to Iowa’s water quality.
“For the past decade, Iowans have been investing millions of dollars in the voluntary approach of the NRS, while continuing to suffer from poor water quality and with no reason to believe it is improving,” said Vasto. “Even with new data on NRS efforts, the numbers are flat or show miniscule improvements that will be washed away with the precipitation we’ll see in a non-drought year.”
Iowans are invited to visit decliningdecade.org to view IEC reports, NRS fact sheets, news stories, and blog posts, as well as external reports and articles, all in one place, to get a more complete picture of Iowa’s fertilizer pollution crisis.
The Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) is the state's largest and most comprehensive environmental alliance, comprised of diverse organizations and individuals working together to protect Iowa's natural environment. Through education, advocacy, and coalition-building, the Council raises awareness, generates action, and creates large-scale change. We work on federal, state, and local public-policy issues to ensure a just, healthy environment and sustainable future for all Iowans. Learn more at iaenvironment.org.