In a new report, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on farms in the bay’s watershed to “urgently accelerate and scale up” their conservation efforts, not only to reduce water-borne pollution — a federal mandate — but to slash their greenhouse gas emissions and stoke local economies.
"Simple and familiar conservation practices, if applied in the right places," are key to reducing worrisome levels of nitrates and other types of farm runoff in the drinking water of rural communities, says the Environmental Working Group. In a report, "Trouble in farm country," the green group said stewardship of all working land should be a requirement for growers who want farm and crop insurance subsidies.
Come November, 11 months from now, Minnesota farmers will be required to leave a 50-foot strip of permanent vegetation along waterways to filter runoff from their fields – a landmark conservation effort. However, Minnesota Public Radio says some county officials are asking for a delay because of confusion over how the law is supposed to work and a lack of money for them to enforce it.
Enrollment in the Conservation Reserve, the largest land-idling program in the United States with 23.9 million acres under contract, is becoming dominated by high-priority practices, such as filter strips along waterways and habitat restoration for wildlife. The USDA says it accepted three times as much fragile land in three years through the continuous signup option as it did in the first "general" signup, open to all landowners.
Landowners should be required to keep a 50-foot-wide buffer strip of permanent vegetation between cropland and waterways, said the Environmental Working Group, which proposed four "basic standards of care" to control agricultural runoff.
If Iowa farmers plant buffer strips alongside waterways, they "could get two-thirds of the way to the state’s goal for reducing phosphorus pollution and one-fifth of the way to the nitrogen pollution target," says a report by the Environmental Working Group.