As a farmer that produces corn, wheat and soybeans I need to respond to the article "Midwest corn boom threatens to expand 'dead zone' in Gulf of Mexico."
Yes, nitrogen fertilizer is used to grow corn. Nitrogen is also required for the production of soybeans and alfalfa. The difference is that soybeans and alfalfa produce their own nitrogen, some of which can also go into the streams and rivers if erosion occurs.
With no till planting, variable rate fertilizer application, fertilizer stabilizers and many other modern farming practices, farmers are reducing the amount of nutrients that enter our waterways. The fact is that with the exception of land cost, fertilizer is the most expensive crop input, we cannot afford to waste it.
Last February, I purchased 32 percent nitrogen solution for $225 per ton. Last week I purchased 32 percent nitrogen solution for $336 per ton and I think it will be higher by spring. For these reasons farmers are producing larger yields with less fertilizers per bushel than at anytime in our past.
I also have some questions about other statements in the article. Henry C. Jackson writes that "This year it (it being called the 'dead zone') is the third-
biggest on record." How did the fact that we have had two rather calm years after the hurricane season of 2005 affect this? How does the harvest of shrimp and crabs affect their sustain-ability?
I don't want to make this a farm against suburbia issue because it is not, we all need to work to improve our environment. How much have the acres of houses, city parks and golf egg pastures (sorry, I couldn't resist) increased in the last 20 years? We could even make this a farmer against farmer issue, crops against livestock, but again, that is not the solution.
How come I don't read many articles about how the Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council, "fear" the application of nitrogen to lawns and golf courses? Or "fear" subdivision rules that force homeowners to apply irrigation water, fertilizer and herbicide so the lawns all look pretty? What if these not-for-profit groups spent some of the millions of dollars that they raise by the "fear" paid a farmer rent to leave a boarder strip along a stream instead of demanding, through legions of attorney, that government solve everyone's problems?
Take a look at the Board of Trustees of either one of the afore mentioned groups and then ask why litigation seems to be their first course of action. One billed hour of time from just one of these attorneys could rent a few acres along a stream.
Finally, farmers are working with the National Resource Conservation Service, a government agency, on programs that improve our land and water resources. Our waters are better than they were 20 years ago because of these programs.
You know, I live on this land, it is where I make a living. I also like a few grilled shrimp every once in a while. I think the shrimpers might also like a few vegetables to go with a steak from time to time also. Maybe even some bio-diesel to help power their boats.
Solutions can be found for some things if we take the "fear" out of the equation and work toward a common goal.
Carl Todt Jr.