The Mississippi River provides drinking water for millions of people living in cities along the water’s edge. It also carries runoff from Midwestern farms into the Gulf of Mexico.
Nutrient runoff from Iowa agriculture is one of the leading causes of the growing “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, an oxygen-deprived section of the Gulf, which last year was recorded to be the size of the state of New Jersey.
“About 29 percent of the load coming into the Gulf originates in Iowa,” says Larry Weber, an executive associate dean professor in the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering. “If we take the Iowa portion out of the Gulf, then the nitrate load to the Gulf of Mexico would be going down. The real challenge in fixing the Gulf hypoxia starts in Iowa.”
In this special edition of River to River, host Clay Masters talks with panelists about what Iowa farmers are doing, or not doing, when it comes to reducing nutrient runoff into the Mississippi River. He also speaks with Thomas Olander, Chairman of the Louisiana Shrimp Association and a fourth generation shrimper.
“If we could get at least a 10 percent cutback in the amount of fertilizer that’s coming down the Mississippi River, it would make a major impact on the shrimping industry,” says Olander.
Other panelists joining the discussion include Kellie Blair, a soybean, corn, cattle and pig farmer in Webster County, and Mitchell Hora, a Washington County farmer who serves on his local county Farm Bureau board.
This conversation was recorded Tuesday, July 17th before a live audience at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City.