Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Des Moines for the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting. This task force, made up of federal and state agencies, was first convened in the late 90’s to find solutions to the growing Dead Zone in the Gulf. Over the past decade, little action has come out of the Task Force. I, along with our conservation partners, the Iowa Environmental Council have expressed frustration with this lack of action on Iowa Radio, and in an Op-ed in the Des Moines Register. The lack of action to truly address the Dead Zone has been due to many factors, from lack of funds to resistance from certain states. However, it seems that a new wind might be blowing in the Task Force. At the Des Moines meeting, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented a new program (via video) that directs $320 million to reducing polluted agricultural runoff in the Mississippi River Basin, and it was encouraging to see that many folks in the media covered the announcement. We have been advocating for this kind of targeting for a long time, and it is nice to see some action. This is a good first step, and I hope that this will spur on more action from USDA, as well as EPA. Presentations from EPA at the Task Force meeting were also encouraging, and it seems that there is some will at the federal level to actually take concrete actions to reduce the size of the Dead Zone. That being said it is still mainly talk, and it will take more than $80 million per year, divided up between 12 Mississippi River states to make a significant dent in the Dead Zone. The Gulf has suffered enough, the time is now for the feds and states to step up to the plate and be held accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) to reduce the size of the Dead Zone.

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