Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge says Iowa farmers and the state of Iowa have spent over $360 million in the past 30 years to reduce soil erosion from farm fields. Judge estimates those efforts have stopped 18 million tons of fertile top soil from escaping farm fields and entering waterways. Judge says 18 million tons of soil would provide a six-inch layer of soil over 20,000 football fields — and could cover all four lanes of an interstate highway stretching from California to New York. The state has put up $180 million over the past 30 years for installing field terraces, planting grass along waterways and other soil-control measures. Iowa farmers who’ve gotten the grants have matched that and in some instances spent more than the required match. Judge says it’s important to remember that waterways do not respect state boundaries. Last week, Judge attended a meeting in St. Louis to discuss the “hypoxia” in the Gulf of Mexico — a”dead zone” that many blame on farm chemical runoff that comes down the Mississippi River. Judge has been attending these official meetings for five years, and she says participants have stopped the finger-pointing and are ready to take action. She has volunteered to head a task force of representatives from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Missouri to devise solutions.