The Illinois EPA is working through the process of updating their water quality standard. Current proposals would make the standard a narrative standard; the USEPA and the environmental community are pushing for a numeric standard.
A numeric standard, a hard a fast number that streams and soils would have to meet, would be difficult since some Illinois soils are already naturally above the standard with no agriculture or municipality present. A narrative standard allows for some subjectivity and allows IEPA and the public more flexibility when working out a solution to nutrient impairment in streams and lakes.
This is an issue Illinois Corn is watching closely. At the same time, we are preparing to help solve our part of the problem without regulation.
Agriculture is working together in a new program called KIC 2025 (Keep It for the Crop 2025) which will be the most extensive environmental effort the ag community has put together. We want to lesson agriculture’s impact on water quality and here’s how we’re going to do it:
- Continued research on nitrogen run off and best management practices to prevent nitrogen loss will show Illinois farmers the best way to farm more efficiently and lesson their impact on the environment.
- Educating Illinois farmers on efficient nitrogen utilization, using cover crops in susceptible areas to scavenge nitrogen when crops aren’t using it, and controlling tile flows in the off season is a good start. And as we learn more, we’ll share more.
- Create investment in infrastructure that allows for farmers to use best management practices while still managing risks. As an example, spring-applied nitrogen is better for the environment, but the risky nature of going all spring-applied is too much for some margins. Many of the risks associated with this change can be managed, leaving only the weather to contend with.
Our goal is simply to continue the remarkable progress corn farmers have made in nitrogen efficiency until nitrogen losses from agriculture are minimal. US corn farmers have reduced the amount of nitrogen used per bushel of corn by 30 percent since 1980. And through KIC 2025, we look forward to more progress in the future.