Say NO! to Pea Soup
Pea soup in a bowl helps chase away winter chills, but it’s hard to get a warm, fuzzy feeling about the sickly green soup so many of our lakes and rivers become in summer. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the primary cause of all that nasty algae growth is polluted runoff from agricultural lands. Phosphorus found in fertilizers and manure is the main culprit.
Starting next week, DNR is holding a series of public hearings on their update to NR 151, the state’s rules for preventing polluted runoff from farms, construction sites and cities.
Your support for the proposal is vital. There are two new sensible and simple requirements for farmers that none the less are being portrayed by farm organizations as the nail in the coffin for farming in Wisconsin. You can bet they’ll be packing the hearings with unhappy farmers, so we need a show of force to tell the story that clean water matters as much to the Wisconsin economy and culture as the dairy industry does.
Here are those requirements, and what they’re really about for the waters of Wisconsin:
• Stop fertilizing our rivers and lakes! The new rule would establish a “P Index,” which is a way to measure how much phosphorus is likely to run off a farm field into a nearby waterway. Soil tests are routinely required for fields that are spread with manure; a P Index above 4 indicates the soil can’t absorb any more and there is a high likelihood some phosphorous will run off. DNR is proposing a P Index of 6, which could allow for excessive runoff. The creation of the P Index is a good thing, but it should be 4, not 6.
• Corn and soybeans do not belong in the rivers! The new rule would require farmers to not plow or till the soil 20 feet from the top of a river or lake bank. Crops like alfalfa that don’t require plowing can still be planted and harvested, but plowing the bank into the water just to eek out one more row of corn to only send more dirt down to the Gulf of Mexico is just bad farming. While this seems common sense, anyone who’s paddled a southern Wisconsin river and seen chewed-up banks and corn stalks dangling over the water knows it’s common practice.
Both of these requirements are no-brainers, and your support is critical. You don’t have to speak, although it would be great if you did. It’s high time that people who care about the health of Wisconsin’s waters get their say with farm policy. Here are a few tips for a simple message:
• Be sure to talk about your river or lake and the algae problems you’ve experienced, and bring your best algae bloom photos
• Voice your support for the whole rule, but indicate your biggest concern is to keep farm runoff out of your favorite river or lake
• Insist that it’s about time farms have to pay attention to how much fertilizer and manure the land can take before it pollutes our rivers and lakes
• The new P Index is a good tool, but the Index should be lowered to 4 to really be effective
• Rivers really should be protected with a wide, vegetated buffer; the 20 feet “tillage setback” is the least that should be required to prevent direct damage to the banks
Hearings Schedule and Locations:
Jan. 25 – Appleton, Outagamie County Highway Department, Highway Shop Conference Room, 1313 Holland Road.
Jan. 28 – Eau Claire, Best Western Trail Lodge, Chippewa Room #1, 3340 Mondovi Road.
Feb. 2 – Waukesha, State Office Building, Room 151, 141 NW Barstow Street.
Feb. 10 – Madison, Lyman F. Anderson Agricultural and Conservation Center, Classrooms A & B, 1 Fen Oak Court.
Feb. 11 – Wausau, Rib Mountain Municipal Center, 3700 N. Mountain Road (Hwy. NN).
Feb. 25 – Platteville, UW Platteville, Pioneer Student Center, University North Room, 1 University Plaza
All the hearings will begin at 1:00 with a 1 hour informational session followed by formal testimony. Hope to see you there!
You can also write to the DNR and offer your opinion that way. Deadline for comments is Feb. 26. Please see the attached PDF below for more information.