A recently released report by the Environmental Working Group suggests that Iowa is facing severe soil erosion. Over 400 townships in Iowa, largely in the western parts of the state, are facing unsustainable (higher than 5 tons per average) erosion rates. Almost half of these townships are facing erosion levels more than twice the sustainable limit.
These alarming figures are largely the result of heavy rain that has struck the state cyclically for the last several years. In addition to damaging the agricultural industry, heavy soil erosion can lead to increased environmental pollution. Eroded soil allows unabsorbed water to wash fertilizer, pesticides, and other pollutants into streams and rivers. Particularly problematic for western Iowa is runoff that reaches the Mississippi River, eventually feeding in the Gulf of Mexico, which is facing severe environmental problems due to industrial pollution and the recent Gulf oil spill.
The EWG report called for several solutions to increasing soil erosion. In particular, they called for an increased effort made to conserve valuable and vulnerable soil in Iowa and other farms across the U.S. While farm subsidies have remained high in recent years, significant amounts of funding have gone towards ethanol programs and efforts to increase production. The upcoming Farm Bill and President Obama’s call to increase ethanol production will only complicate the precarious soil situation in Iowa.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer