USDA will take some extra acres for conservation this year
May 29, 2012

The USDA is planning to accept about 100,000 acres of Iowa farmland into the Conservation Reserve Program this year, marking an increase of about 13,000 acres over the number whose leases with CRP will expire this year. The program is used for a number of purposes, though it's largely intended to help prevent environmental damage by providing a buffer between waterways and soil that's been treated with chemicals, fertilizers, and manure. Doing that helps reduce the volume of nutrients that enter the nation's waters, which contribute to a number of problems -- including nitrates in drinking water and algae blooms in lakes. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is also blamed on the nutrients in fertilizers and manure. Because the CRP leases last for 10 to 15 years, they represent a big investment for farmers, who exchange the certainty of their CRP payments for the uncertain amounts they can make from raising crops or grazing livestock.

FYI: The "dead zone" is caused by hypoxia, which is the lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. Many municipal wastewater treatment plants have to measure for dissolved oxygen in their treatment processes to help ensure that they don't discharge "dead" water into receiving rivers and streams.

May 2012
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