In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.
In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.
Friday, February 17, 2017
Iowa Ag = Assault On Landscape
WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, Iowa Ag is neither Aldo Leopoldian nor spiritual stewardship.
It’s industrial, and it is degrading land and water quality at a rapid pace.
The basic infrastructure of modern Iowa farming is an industrial model that allows the rapid release of both soil and chemical applications that pollute water and create costly public health problems. Rather than alter the industrial model, Iowa Ag seeks public $$$ to mitigate the damage. As an industrial process, it is impossible for any meaningful mitigation techniques to help recover landscape quality. And there will not be any legislative or self-restriction on chemical application and no uniform statewide effort to minimize soil loss and resistance to any legislative regulation or explicit monitoring of damage. Use of fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides can be anticipated to increase in the future.
There is no willingness to pay for any damage and there is resistance to monitoring of soil and chemical release from specific properties. Even with public funding, the level of mitigation compliance can be expected to be resisted by landowners as has always been the case. Even with decades of conservation efforts and billions $$$ public funding, compliance has been minimal. For decades, Iowa Ag has resisted legislative efforts to mitigate water pollution and soil loss from farm runoff, with strategies such as field edge buffer zones.
And so, an industry that damages a vast proportion of the Iowa landscape generates only 10% of GDP contributes to 90% of water quality issues. In the Iowa economy, nearly 91 cents of every dollar generated comes from businesses other than agriculture. And while Iowa is often described as a farm state, 98% of Iowans are not employed in agriculture. Water treatment is regulated and publicly funded, but water damage is void of any responsibility. This is not only poor citizenship by Iowa agriculturalists, but also dismal stewardship. Iowa Ag lives off the thousands-years-old “fat” of the land, taking rather than sustaining, to the point of assaulting/abusing perhaps the richest soil quality in Earth with no consequences.