deal with our natural resources on a daily basis: the land, the
air, the water. This puts them in a unique position to either protect
those resources, or exploit them. Explore more about the complex
factors affecting the relationship between agriculture and water
farmers, where would we be? No milk, eggs, meat, produce, grain,
or hundreds of other goods that rely on farmers productivity.
But is there too much pressure to produce? Are farmers forced to
take risks and shortcuts that jeopardize the environment, in order
to meet our needs and make themselves a profit? Farmers must constantly
weigh their desire to be good
of the land against a complex set of economic factors. And farmers
arent the only ones faced with that struggle, industries and
businesses must make the same sorts of decisions. Choosing the for water, may cost more money or take more time.
the city or down on the farm, protecting water really does come
down to individual choices. On the farm, the choices range from
the way manure is managed, to the amounts and types of chemicals
used. From the way farmers till their land, to the way they manage
The consequences of all these choices are closely tied to water
how do we encourage farmers to make the right choices?
can be a powerful tool, it worked very well to stop industries that
were polluting water. But enforcing regulations on hundreds of thousands
of farms would be costly, and almost impossible to enforce. Education
is another tool. Universities spend a lot of time, effort, and money
researching the most effective, economical, and environmentally
friendly management practices for farmers. These Best Management
Practices (BMPs) are ultimately tested by individual farmers, and
hopefully put into widespread use. Can you think of other things
that would encourage farmers to protect water quality?
controls how land resources are managed? Does a farmer have a responsibility
do livestock have to do with water quality? A lot, if theyre
not managed correctly. Large groups of animals that are allowed
free access to waterways can impair the water in more ways than
can trample streambanks and eat all the vegetation, exposing bare
soil. Wind and water quickly erode soil away, increasing the amount
moving into .
that are allowed to eliminate into the water impair the water
with their waste. Animal waste contains nutrients like
and can contain disease causing bacteria, or harmful amounts of
- Even if
livestock arent eliminating directly into waterways, its
extremely important to manage the manure they produce. If the
manure isnt carefully controlled and disposed of, runoff
can carry the nutrients or bacteria into waterways.
What does this
mean to you?
- If manure
isn't managed properly, you pay more to treat water before you
can use it.
- High levels
of nitrogen in drinking water can affect the bloods ability
to carry oxygen, causing serious health problem, especially for
bacteria present in animal waste, (e.g., ), pose a serious health threat to humans. Runoff containing
livestock waste contributes to closing several lakes and beaches
in Iowa every year.
animals need water, and as long as we are buying animal products
for food and clothing, farmers will raise them. What are some things
farmers can do to manage livestock with water quality in mind? What
are the Best Management Practices of livestock management?
can fence off streams and provide alternative water sources for
- Animal waste
can be collected, properly stored, and then applied to fields
rather than left to runoff into the water supply.
do you think?
farmers prefer to let their livestock run free on their land,
who has the right to stop them? Should farmers be able to protect
their herds from disease using antibiotics?
State Extension Services. "The Water Quality Connection." (Agronomy
Extension Programs.) Online. http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/waterquality/.
rather recent development, emerging contaminants, is just
beginning to be studied. Emerging contaminants are new chemicals
only recently found in our water supply. More
and the Dead Zone
Doyle family farms along the Mississippi River in Iowa. Their corn
and soybean crops grow in rich river soil, created by centuries
of sediment deposited by glaciers and the Mississippi's flood cycles.
is a CAFO?
the enormous potential for manure to impair water quality, should
large animal confinements be allowed to operate?More
a nice way of talking about one of the dirty jobs of raising livestockgetting
rid of animal waste. What do farmers do with it?More
hog lot controversy has been brewing for years in Iowa. Hogs create
an incredible amount of income in the state, but they also bring
the potential for tremendous environmental damage.
land that is naturally too dry for crops be irrigated? What are
the benefits and drawbacks? More
to Market Online Links
Alters Market Prospects." This Market to Market feature looks
at how weather patterns influence agriculture.
Fishing Makes Waves." This Market to Market feature looks at
some Iowa farmers turning to aquaculture.
Responds to Planting Delays and Drought." This Market to Market
feature looks at drought and how it has affected farmers' ability
to plant crops.
Issues Trouble Rural America." This Market to Market feature
looks at water interests of farming and rural areas. Read about
flooding, drought, hydrologic modification, and more.
Target Big Pork." This Market to Market feature looks at how
rivers are affected by hog lots.
Clean Water Alliance." These Market to Market features look at nitrates
in our water and what we can do about them. Feature
Lee Hochberg reports on a debate over water rights
in Oregon that pits endangered suckerfish
against endangered farmers.
Mark Twain put
it best: "In the West whiskey is for drinking; water is for
particular fight is over the water in two rivers: the Animus
and the La Plata, a fight nearly a century old.