Farm Progress

A new report to be released during the Farm Progress Show will shed light on whether — and how — farmers are reducing nutrient loss from farms into waterways.

Holly Spangler, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

June 29, 2017

3 Min Read
QUALITY: Are farmers reducing nutrient loss? An announcement during the Farm Progress Show will help tell the story.

The Farm Progress Show is full of big announcements, and one promises special meaning for Midwestern farmers: the announcement of the biennial report of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy.

“We’re going to be able to tell a very positive story about agriculture, and how the various ag interest groups and producers have really made the nutrient loss reduction issue their own,” says Warren Goetsch, deputy director at the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a real positive story for agriculture to tell. We’ve seen the adoption of management practices. Groups got out and told the story of why we’re doing what we’re doing, why we’re looking closer at nutrient inputs, why we’re attempting to minimize losses.”

Goetsch says the report is a follow-up to the nutrient loss reduction strategy released in 2015. It includes information from a survey conducted by the National Ag Statistics Service, which was released last December and gauged producer awareness as well as changes in production practices. That study examined the metrics needed to map progress and will be repeated every other year.

“Ultimately, you look at water quality to judge whether you’ve been successful,” Goetsch says. But changes in the water quality entering the Gulf of Mexico are many years in the future, and Midwest agriculture needs to know whether it’s making progress today.

“So we’re looking at awareness and acre management — we need to create awareness and create adoption of best practices in order to see improvement,” Goetsch says.

The biennial report is a collaboration of IDOA, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois EPA, plus several stakeholders from all different sectors: Illinois Farm Bureau, Growmark, IL Corn, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Pork Producers, the Sierra Club, and other environmental and water organizations.

Nuts and bolts
The biennial report that will be released during the Farm Progress Show will include a short science update, a report from each sector (agriculture, urban, point and non-point sources), and other activities like performance benchmarks.

“The biennial report is an update of the original nutrient loss reduction strategy,” Goetsch explains. “Two years from now, we will do it again: We’ll update the science, monitoring and activity in each sector.

“There’s an ongoing need to keep this effort in front of producers so we can continue to make progress.”

And while results are still being compiled, Goestch believes the news is good.

“I think we’ve been able to document that we’ve been making progress — and that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done,” he says.

Goetsch adds that despite no new money coming from Washington or Springfield to fund projects like these, “significant dollars” have been redirected from existing programs, as well as the private sector, to focus on nutrient loss reduction.

There’s strategy even in the release of the biennial report: “By making the announcement at the Farm Progress Show, you’re introducing successes to a whole range of farmers who might be apprehensive about these new management practices,” he says.

The announcement is tentatively scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 30 in the Media Tent.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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