Letter: Solutions to improve water quality

I am a farmer, Farm Bureau board member, county voting delegate and Benton County Soil and Water Commissioner. We help administer one of the state nutrient projects in this area, so I see problems from all sides.

The agenda is driven by the Environmental Protection Agency wanting to expand their regulating authority. Now we have all the pollution that needs to be cleaned up. We have been working on this for a long time.

There is a longtime study on a river in Iowa. The nitrate levels are gradually decreasing. There are spikes during periods of heavy rain, which flushes nitrates out of the soil. Nitrates move with the water. The soil provides some (some soils more than others). We add the rest.

With too much rain, some of the nitrates wash away. If it’s too dry, plants can’t use it. The tricky part is applying the right amount so it is available at the right time. At 50 cents a pound, applying too much is expensive; apply too little and the yield is lower. You can’t sell what you didn’t produce. Due to low grain prices more phosphorus and potash are being removed from the soil by the crops than is put back.

I propose two solutions: 1. Iowa voters should directly approve any increase in the sales tax rate; 2. The Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund should say where the money is going to go.

Robert Ritscher



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