Letter to the editor: Hill cherry-picks factoids on water quality

Steve Sohn, left, and Joe Warnock joined Ray Harden on the North Raccoon River April 5.

To the editor:

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill’s column on water quality in the Des Moines Register (“Whole story: Farmers see progress on water quality,” April 1) is a perfect illustration of the Farm Bureau’s inclination for cherry-picking factoids.

He mentions a downward trend in river nitrates. Under select analysis this is true. But the same data reveals repeat record highs.

Hill mentions $11 million in farmer investments. That is impressive until one calculates that’s less than 50 cents per acre or $125 per farmer. The Iowa Farm and Rural Life poll a few years ago showed that 51 percent of farmers had spent nothing on conservation in the past decade.

Hill finishes with the straw man argument that Des Moines Water Works puts the nitrates back in the river. In 2013 this amounted to 13,000 pounds for the year. That same spring the Raccoon River nitrate load was over 40 million pounds per day. The minute amount Water Works puts back daily can’t even be measured downstream. Let’s not overlook that those nitrates were already in the river, unlike fertilizer nitrates that come from elsewhere.

Many farmers are leaders in stewardship. The farm poll suggests they’re maybe 5 percent. Farm Bureau has the capacity and political sway to be leaders in facing Iowa’s water quality challenges, but they aren’t. While farmers are digging deeper into the conservation tool box, Farm Bureau just digs deeper into their box of logical fallacies.

Drake Larsen, Ames


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