Worrisome levels of nitrate in drinking water for 7 million Americans

Seven million Americans who live in small cities and towns have worrisome levels of nitrates in their drinking water — below the federal limit of 10 milligrams per liter, but high enough to be associated with cancer in some studies, said an Environmental Working Group official. Craig Cox, head of EWG's Midwest office, said 1,683 communities had nitrate levels above 5 milligrams per liter and, when plotted on a map, they "crazily lined up with intensive agriculture."

Climate change may help some Northeast livestock producers

Climate change’s impact on animal agriculture in the northeastern United States is expected to be mild overall — and in some cases new weather patterns might even help producers, says a study by Penn State, published in the journal Climatic Change.

Study: climate change will boost ag runoff 20 percent this century

The harmful effects of fertilizer runoff are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, as more extreme precipitation washes excess nutrients into U.S. waterways, causing dead zones, says a study published in Science. “The authors found that future climate change-driven increases in rainfall in the United States could boost nitrogen runoff by as much as 20 percent by the end of the century,” says The New York Times.

Forget what you heard: prairie and farming can coexist

Iowa owes its incredibly productive soil to the prairie—the same prairie that farmers have spent decades ripping out, says The Washington Post. Midwestern growers were long instructed to destroy native grasslands in order to make room for row crops. But a new program called STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Rowcrops Integrated with Prairie Strips) hopes to convince the state’s farmers that they can decrease soil erosion and fertilizer runoff by planting native grasslands in between their regular crops.

Investigation: Illinois regulatory system failed to check giant pork producers

A dysfunctional and toothless state regulatory system “failed to protect rural communities” and the environment from pork producers that “repeatedly exploited weak Illinois laws to build and expand … massive” confinement facilities over the last 20 years, according to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune.