The Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented a check for one-million dollars to Iowa officials today for a new program to keep farm chemicals from running off into waterways. Mike Leavitt says the program will focus on cutting down the nitrates from farm fertilizers that eventually make it into the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. He says because we are in fact a nation of waterways and a republic of rivers, this watershed approach to solve the problem means we’re climbing up the pole to turn the problem off as opposed to always spending time at the bottom trying to mop it up. Leavitt says the federal government has a four-step approach that begins with a collaboration of federal, state, local governments, and private entities. He says you’re not going to clean up the Mississippi Delta, of which Iowa is a part, without getting back to the actual watershed itself. He says that requires a lot of people collaborating to find a solution. He says it’ll also require using innovative technologies — and market-based incentives. Finding ways to motivate people to do more instead of finding ways for them to get out of things. And lastly, he says it’ll focus on results — measuring and focusing. The Iowa money is part of nearly 15-million dollars that’s being spent in 14 states. He says the watersheds represent more than 20-thousand square miles of rivers, and streams — most of them along the Mississippi River basin. He says most of the projects will try to address the excessive nutrient runoff. Iowa Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge says the project will center on using new technologies in Pocahontas and Palo Alto counties — and says it continues the efforts of the state to clean up the water. She says over 90-percent of the state is being farmed, and she says when you farm in the intensive way we do, that creates problems. She says we have to address the problems and she says that’s the pledge that we will not run away from the problem and will find solutions. Judge says a map that shows the nitrate runoff problem bothers her every time she sees it. She says the map shows colors for the amount of nitrogen that’s supposedly running off from all of the states, and says when you get to Iowa, it’s bright red. She says she wants to see that change to a bright pink. The Iowa program will involve capturing water in special pools to keep the nitrates from getting into waterways and streams from the tiles in farm fields.
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