Nutrient pollution from excess fertilizer carried downstream by water and erosion is poisoning our drinking water, feeding toxic algal blooms and contributing to a massive deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico.
In fact, nutrient pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus washed away from our soil makes Illinois the top state contributing to the deadzone at the mouth of the Mississippi River. That means we aren’t just harming our own water quality, we’re jeopardizing our environment and livelihood of communities over 1,000 miles away.
While our state government has established a plan to improve our water quality by reducing nutrient pollution through the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices like cover crops and vegitative buffers, a recent report shows that Illinois is at least 200-500 years away from reaching that goal!
In other words, we’re nowhere close to adopting the practices we need at a rate that will adequately protect our precious soil and drinking water.
Our team at the Illinois Environmental Council along with our affiliate organizations like the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Delta Institute, Izaak Walton League of America, The Wetlands Initiative, American Farmland Trust and Prairie Rivers Network have all been working with state agencies to get Illinois on track to meet those goals.
We all have a role to play in making clean water a priority. Here are some things you can start doing today to help:
- tell your elected officials to increase funding for regenerative agriculture practices,
- tend your own lawn in ways that do not contribute to nutrient pollution,
- plant cover crops if you’re a farmer and
- spreading the word about programs that make regenerative ag practices more financially accessible for farmers
We have a long way to go in reaching our nutrient pollution goals, but the state’s plan to reduce nutrient loss pollution does identify solutions. Cover crops, for example, are a major piece of the equation. The roots of cover crops help keep soil in place and improve water retention, reducing the nutrients loads that have continued to plague our waterways.
Farmers across Illinois may be eligible for the Fall Cover for Spring Savings Program, a new pilot project run by the Illinois Department of Agriculture that pays a $5 per acre premium discount on the following year’s crop insurance invoice for every acre of cover crop enrolled.