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Iowa Corn Growers Respond To Culver's Fertilizer Statement

Iowa Corn Growers Respond To Culver's Fertilizer Statement

Iowa governor says he thinks the state should limit the use of commercial fertilizer by farmers. He says self-regulation and voluntary approach isn't working, citing 500 seriously polluted lakes and streams.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver said this past week in an interview with the Des Moines Register newspaper that he advocates regulation of commercial fertilizer application in the state. "The Iowa Corn Growers Association is deeply disappointed by the governor's statements," says Mindy Larsen Poldberg, government relations director for ICGA.

She adds, "We believe it is our duty to inform our members of this complete shift in the policy of the Culver campaign on an issue that is central to Iowa corn production. We also want to provide our members with facts showing that Iowa's corn growers are making measurable progress in reducing soil erosion and in reducing the amount of nutrients in our waterways."

Following is a special report that ICGA sent via email to the organization's 6,000 members on October 15.

Tuesday, October 12, on the front page of the Des Moines Register, there was an article entitled "Culver: Limit Use of Fertilizer by Farmers," with a link to a video on the Register website.  he article's first line read: "Iowa should consider limiting how much commercial fertilizer farmers apply to crop fields, Governor Chet Culver said Monday." 

Farmers can read the Register story, and watch the full video of Culver making these remarks at:  Video relating to crop farmers' regulation is located at 43 to 48 minutes of the clip.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is deeply disappointed by Governor Culver's statements to the Register. We believe it is our duty to inform our members of this complete shift in the policy of the Culver campaign on an issue that is central to Iowa corn production. We also want to provide our members with facts showing that you, Iowa's corn growers, are making measurable progress in reducing erosion and nutrient into our waterways.

He says voluntary efforts and self-regulation are not working

The following quotes are taken directly from the Culver video verbatim. Culver said, "voluntary compliance, if you will, is not working. The self-regulated approach isn't working;" and "it's outrageous and we're going to aggressively put that plan together because what we're doing now is not enough."  When asked by the Register: "Would you expect more regulation on farms" he responded with a firm and unequivocal "Yes."  When asked what specific regulations he would propose, he responded by saying that "one option is to look at applications and how much we allow people to apply and when we allow them to apply it."  He also said: "I am in agreement with this newspaper in terms of what we've done in the past isn't working;" and "We all have to acknowledge the fact that the problem is getting worse not better."   

Tuesday's statements are a significant departure from both written and verbal statements Culver made to the Iowa Corn Growers Association this year. ICGA had specifically asked the governor about his support for science based, cooperative approaches to water quality. Until this week, ICGA believed Culver supported voluntary measures to reduce erosion and improve water quality. ICGA finds it very disappointing that Governor Culver did not seek to contact corn growers prior to making this decision toward regulation of corn farmers. 

ICGA points out farmers are indeed making environmental progress

ICGA first took action Thursday by writing an editorial to the Des Moines Register (see attached), which we hope the Register will publish. The facts show that Iowa farmers are making measurable progress. According to USDA, nitrogen and phosphorus usage per bushel has been reduced drastically over the past 25 years; nitrogen rates per bushel have declined by 38.3% and phosphorus by 52.4%. We have reduced soil erosion by 33% since 1987 and have improved our use of conservation tillage by 9% since 2006.  

Farmers have not been ignoring the environment. Iowa farmers have invested millions through their corn checkoff on research regarding nitrogen use efficiency. Over the past 8 years, researchers funded by the corn checkoff have been working through biotechnology to insert a gene into the corn plant that will require at least 20% less nitrogen per bushel. This means the corn plant will be more productive with less nitrogen. Less nitrogen will get into our waterways, and our carbon footprint will decrease.

We are on the verge of a huge breakthrough regarding corn nitrogen that would change this issue dramatically. We encourage you to use these facts in your local area, and also share with others all the contributions farmers are making to improve the environment.

Governor and state regulators are urged to look at the facts

We hope that Governor Culver and the appropriate state of Iowa departments will look at the data we have provided, work with farmers in a cooperative way, and build a working and trusting relationship. Instead of regulation, we recommend that the state of Iowa actually implement many of the state water quality task force recommendations, founded on cooperative action, with the support of many farmers, environmentalists and other local entities. These groups (including ICGA) worked on the official task force recommendations for over two years.

This does not mean corn farmers are finished improving our farming practices or that we can stop working to improve our waterways. We know that corn farmers will continue to invest in conservation practices and will become more efficient in farming practices. We applaud Iowa corn farmers for their efforts.

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