On the Radio: Agriculture now highest source of greenhouse gases in Iowa


Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).
Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the Iowa DNR’s 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory, which shows that Iowa’s agriculture industry is now the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions for the state. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Agriculture is now the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resourcesʼ 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory report
found that Iowaʼs agriculture industry contributes to 27 percent of the stateʼs
greenhouse gas emissions.

The figure is due in part to Iowaʼs increasing dependence on wind energy, which has
drastically decreased the need for coal use over the last decade and brought emissions
from electric power generation down to 25 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture include those from animal digestive
systems, plant fertilizers and agricultural runoff. The most common of these gases are
methane and nitrous oxide.

Although agricultural emissions increased last year, Iowaʼs total emissions have now
decreased for three straight years.

For more information about greenhouse gas emissions, visit
IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iʼm Jerry
Schnoor.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/InsideDNR/RegulatoryAir/GreenhouseGasEmissions/
GHGInventories.aspx

On the Radio: Bee-harming pesticide may be ineffective


A bee lands on a flower during pollination (Cristian Bernardo Velasco Valdez / Flickr)
A bee lands on a flower during pollination (Cristian Bernardo Velasco Valdez / Flickr)
March 16, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a popular pesticide thought to harm bees, which may not be as effective at warding off pests as previously thought. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Bee pesticide

A pesticide thought to harm bee populations may be less effective for pest control than previously thought.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The effectiveness of neonicotinoid, a class of pesticides used on nearly half of soybean crops nationwide, is being called into question by a recent EPA analysis. The study concludes that the treatment provides “little or no overall benefits to soybean production in most situations.”

The pesticide is one of the factors researchers like Mary Harris, of Iowa State University, suspect may be responsible for dramatically falling bee populations over the last ten years. While the pesticide can’t kill bees directly, it can contaminate pollen and contribute to loss of bees over winter. Farmers depend on bees and other insects to pollinate their crops.

For more information about pesticides and other crop treatments, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/benefits-neonicotinoid-seed-treatments-soybean-production

http://netnebraska.org/article/news/955118/ag-industry-odds-over-pesticide-studied-bee-deaths

On the Radio: New search engine for ag research


A screenshot of the USDA's PubAg resource page.
A screenshot of the USDA’s PubAg resource page.
March 9, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new online service from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that makes thousands of journal articles on agricultural science free for farmers and the general public. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: PubAg

A new service by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made available thousands of journal articles about agricultural research for free to scientists, farmers, and anyone else with an internet connection.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Earlier this year the National Agricultural Library launched its new online search tool known as PubAg. The free online search engine allows users full-text access to more than 40,000 journal articles from USDA researchers dating back to 1997. New articles will be added on almost a daily basis and older articles may eventually be added as well.

The database contains a variety of agricultural topics ranging from nutrition and food quality to natural resources and sustainable systems. Users do not need to sign up for an account to access the system.

The National Agricultural Library is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

For a link to the database and to learn more about it visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2015/150113.htm

http://gcn.com/articles/2015/01/20/usda-pubag-search-engine.aspx

Proposed bill would tighten Iowa manure application laws


With over 60 million chickens, 20 million pigs, 9 million turkeys, and 4 million cows, Iowa farms and livestock operations produce large quantities of manure. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
With over 60 million chickens, 20 million pigs, 9 million turkeys, and 4 million cows, Iowa farms and livestock operations produce large quantities of manure each year. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

 

Nick Fetty | March 3, 2015

An Iowa Senate subcommittee has approved a bill it hopes will improve water quality by tightening manure application laws.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) from the Natural Resources and Environment Subcommittee introduced the bill last month. If passed, the bill would bar farmers from applying fertilizer when (1) the ground is frozen or snow-covered; (2) the ground is water-saturated; (3) the 24-hour weather forecast calls for a half-inch of rain or more; or (4) the ground is sloped at 20 percent or greater. The currently law – which was added to the Iowa Code in 2010 – states that farmers cannot apply fertilizer to their soil between December 21 and April 1.

The proposed bill is also supported by the non-profit Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. ICCI organizer Jess Mazour believes the proposed bill will be more effective at cleaning up Iowa’s waterways compared to the current voluntary system.

“It is very much needed because voluntary compliance is not working,” Mazour said in an interview with WNAX. “And if we just leave it up to farmers to pick and choose what they think is safe it’s showing us that our water is just going to keep getting dirtier. We have to be very specific about what we want.”

An identical bill was also introduced to the Iowa House by Rep. Dan Kelly (D-Newton). These proposals come on the heels of a recent measure drafted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which allows the DNR to inspect manure-handling practices by farmers and to issue fines for those not in compliance with current codes.

Approximately 76 manure spills were reported in 2013. In 2014, a dairy farm was fined $160,000 after improper manure disposal killed hundreds of thousands of fish.

On the Radio: Bakken pipeline presents environmental risks


An oil pad near the Little Missouri River near Billings, North Dakota (NPCA / Flickr).
An oil pad near the Little Missouri River near Billings, North Dakota (NPCA / Flickr).
February 23, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at environmental concerns raised by farmers and climate experts related to the Bakken oil pipeline. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Bakken pipeline environmental concerns

A proposed crude oil pipeline spanning the state is causing environmental concerns among Iowans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Texas-based Dakota Access has officially sought permission from the state Utilities Board to build a pipeline across 18 Iowa counties. The pipeline would carry oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to central Illinois.

Similar projects have led to serious spills, like one that leaked 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River in Montana in January, contaminating the water supply of nearby cities.

Farmers and landowners at informational meetings in December spoke out against the pipeline’s construction, arguing that the project would interfere with drainage systems built to address Iowa’s growing runoff problem. Others noted that such a project may further Americans’ dependence on fossil fuels, at a time when climate experts are urging a shift to clean, renewable energy.

For continuous updates on the Bakken pipeline, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Trust aims to preserve Iowa farmland


The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust aims to promote sustainable farming techniques and prevent soil erosion. (Paw Paw/Flickr)
The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust aims to promote sustainable farming techniques and prevent soil erosion as seen on this soybean field in Wisconsin. (Paw Paw/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | February 20, 2015

A recently introduced Iowa program aims to help out first-time farmers as well as those managing organic and sustainable operations.

The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) is a private nonprofit land trust dedicated to preserving Iowa’s farmland. Lawmakers have supported this bi-partisan effort with its advisory board including Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton). The “working group” will consist of public and private stakeholders with 71-year old Corydon-resident Mary Ellen Miller being the first to donate 40 acres of land to the cause. In November the trust got a $20,000 interest-free loan from the Slow Money National Gathering.

The trust aims to put more emphasis on locally-grown products as Iowa currently imports 90 percent of its edible food. Additionally, the trust aims to promote sustainable agricultural practices to preserve soil as Iowa ranked second in the nation for amount of soil lost due to erosion in 2010, according to the Farmland Information Center. The trust also aims to assist novice farmers who may struggle acquiring land.

“It’s my dream to own an organic, diversified farm. Right now it’s really hard to find land. There’s lots of competition from developers, and some farmers sell land to larger farms. I am hoping I can find something through SILT,” aspiring farmer Kate Mendenhall said in an interview with Iowa Public Radio.

The Farmland Information Center also reports that Iowa is one of 28 states that have programs to protect land.

Edit: This post originally misstated that SILT was introduced by lawmakers.

On the Radio: First Iowa Ag Summit scheduled for March


A farmer chops corn for silage in an Iowa field (TumblingRun / Flickr)
A farmer chops corn for silage in an Iowa field (TumblingRun / Flickr)
February 16, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment introduces the upcoming Iowa Agriculture Summit, a political event taking place in Des Moines next month. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Ag Summit

A recently announced forum focusing on agriculture aims to put Iowa farm issues in the national spotlight.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Last month Iowa entrepreneur and philanthropist Bruce Rastetter announced plans for the state’s first ag summit to take place in Des Moines on March 7th. The event aims to provide an opportunity for potential presidential candidates from each party to discuss agricultural issues affecting the economy in Iowa and around the rest of the country.

More than a dozen prominent political figures have been invited to speak at the event including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Each speaker will take the stage individually and will have 20 minutes to discuss issues ranging from genetically modified organisms to federal subsidies.

For more information about Iowa’s inaugural ag summit visit Iowa.Environmental-Focus.org

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.porknetwork.com/news/ag-policy/inaugural-iowa-ag-summit-scheduled-march-7-2015-des-moines