A new report entitled, 'Troubled Waters: Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water," points to agricultural producers for water problems in key watersheds related to manure, nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer runoff.

Lora Berg 1, Editor

April 12, 2012

1 Min Read
Report Blames Agriculture for Water Problems, Proposes Solutions

A recently released Environmental Working Group (EWG) report cites some harsh figures while laying the blame for water problems in key watersheds squarely at the feet of agricultural producers.  The report, “Troubled Waters: Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water,”  cites data indicating farm operators apply more than 12 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer and 8 million tons of phosphorus fertilizer to U.S. agricultural lands every year.


The report, citing a 2001 USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) bulletin, also indicates livestock production generates between 350 million and 1 billion tons of manure each year. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, manure is said to contribute 7 to 48% of the total phosphorus entering U.S. waters, depending on the number of livestock farms in a watershed. The consequences of nutrient overload include nitrate buildup in groundwater, eutrophication of lakes and ponds, algae blooms and oxygen depletion, according to the report.


Tile drainage is also named as a culprit in causing movement of nutrients into streams, particularly in Iowa and Illinois. Treating drinking water after it is contaminated in order to make it useable is expensive and unsustainable, according to the report.


The report focused primarily on the situation in the four Midwestern Corn Belt states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Report authors suggest Congress should use the new farm bill to protect drinking water through reformed farm subsidies, renewing the conservation compact and strengthening conservation incentive programs. Download the full report at http://static.ewg.org/reports/2012/troubled_waters/troubled_waters.pdf .

About the Author(s)

Lora Berg 1

Editor, National Hog Farmer

Lora is the editor of National Hog Farmer. She joined the National Hog Farmer editorial team in 1993, served as associate editor, managing editor, contributing editor, and digital editor before being named to the editor position in 2013. She has written and produced electronic newsletters for Farm Industry News, Hay & Forage Grower and BEEF magazines. She was also the founding editor of the Nutrient Management e-newsletter.

Lora grew up on a purebred Berkshire operation in southeastern South Dakota and promoted pork both as the state’s Pork Industry Queen and as an intern with the South Dakota Pork Producers Council. Lora earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Dakota State University in agricultural journalism and mass communications. She has served as communications specialist for the National Live Stock and Meat Board and as director of communications for the University of Minnesota College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. During her career, Lora earned the Story of the Year award from the American Agricultural Editors’ Association and bronze award at the national level in the American Society of Business Publication Editors’ competition. She is passionate about providing information to support National Hog Farmer's pork producer readers through 29 electronic newsletter issues per month, the monthly magazine and nationalhogfarmer.com website.

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