Hundreds of thousands of Minnesota residents are drinking water contaminated with elevated levels of nitrate, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group. The state is rolling out new rules to regulate nitrogen fertilizer application and protect groundwater, but advocates say they may not go far enough to keep residents safe.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.