Agricultural Runoff Issues Will Contribute to Future of America's Water Quality Regulations

The Lake Erie algae bloom that forced Toledo officials to issue a do-not-drink advisory for local water in August highlighted the impact that agriculture can have on water quality.

Runoff of fertilizer from farm fields is believed to have caused that algae growth as well as an oxygen-depleted “dead” zone in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana and in Chesapeake Bay.

“Allowing farm field runoff of manures and fertilizers applied at four times the rate a decade ago, with excessive phosphorus that feed the green muck is simply no longer acceptable,” Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, said as she held up a jar of green Lake Erie water during recent debate on a bill to block the administration from clarifying the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The Obama administration is taking a voluntary approach to reducing the farm runoff in northwest Ohio.

The Department of Agriculture announced in August that it would rush out $2 million in grants to encourage area farmers to plant cover crops that would prevent soil runoff from farm fields in the region next year.

The department is providing another $1 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for technical advice to landowners.

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