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September 24, 2006 - Proper Application vs Ban

We are looking at yet another attempt to keep farmers from producing food. It was outlined in a story a few days ago, dateline - Des Moines. The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission is closer to implementing a ban on the spreading of manure on land planted with soybeans. The commission instructed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to begin the rule-making process for the ban. If approved, the rule change could have a big effect on the farming community. Row crop farmers use manure as fertilizer and livestock producers get rid of tons of animal waste by applying it to fields.

But now, environmentalists argue that soybeans don’t need the nutrients provided by manure. They say that its application on soybean fields creates nitrate pollution by leaving too much nitrogen in the soil which then runs off into the state’s waterways.

There is another side to this debate. Tracy Blackmer, Director of Research for the Iowa Soybean Association, said scientific studies show that soybeans do use the nutrients in manure. And he said state regulators should focus on proper application techniques and not an outright ban.

Not only will that change a lot of farming practices but, there’s the other work that will be created by this ban. If the rules are put in place they will take effect in 3 years and that means farmers will spend time and money to make sure they follow the rules. I’m sure the government paperwork needed to document compliance will be lengthy and complicated, taking valuable time away from what a farmer does best...produce food. And a rule of this type always raises the question of financial penalty similar to those we have seen in the Endangered Species Act or Wetlands Preservation Act.

Keep on passing new rules and regulations that are unrealistic and make it tougher for farmers to farm and more and more of our food will be produced outside the borders of the United States where we will have no control over quality or safety. Then we will hear consumer complaints wondering why we are importing so much of our food and how safe is it.

I hope we don’t have to learn these lessons the hard way. I would suggest that the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission go along with Tracey Blackmer’s suggestion to focus on proper application techniques instead of an outright ban. Farmers and ranchers have enough of a challenge dealing with weather and markets to stay in business; they don’t need more unnecessary regulations from bureaucrats.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.