Fertilizer being spread on Iowa corn field. Courtesy USDA NRCSThe Gulf Restoration Network, and its partners, has tried for 15 years to get state and federal governments to work with farmers to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution flowing down the Mississippi River that causes the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Much of this pollution results from over application of fertilizer. The conservation community even asked Congress to require that as a condition of getting federal subsidies and conservation dollars, farmers be required to create plans would help them to reduce their use of fertilizer and implement practices reduce runoff of fertilizer into local waterbodies. All of these efforts were met with resistance. As a result, the level pollution flowing down the river has not decreased at all and the Dead Zone continues.
Now, Walmart has begun an initiative to reduce fertilizer on 14 million acres of farmland by 2020 by requiring that suppliers of crops, including the big three -- wheat, corn, and soy -- to develop “fertilizer-optimization plans.” Farmers have always said they want the market, rather than regulation, to drive their practices, and now they have it.
I find it sad, however, that a corporation like Walmart is taking action to protect the people and the environment from nutrient pollution when our federal and state agencies won’t. In fact, states, including Louisiana and Florida are working to stop nitrogen and phosphorus pollution clean-up plans in the Chesapeake Bay!
Good for Walmart. We are looking forward to hearing more details about this initiative and the cleaner water that could result.
Cyn is GRN's Executive Director