A task force examining the so-called “dead-zone” in the Gulf of Mexico is meeting again today (Wednesday) in Des Moines. The oxygen depleted area is believed to have been created in part by nutrient runoff from farm fields that empty into the Mississippi River.
Ann Mills, and undersecretary with the U.S.D.A., says the “Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force” is taking concrete actions to address nutrient runoff and other contributors to hypoxia, while monitoring the work to get the science right. “Making sure that we have the most accurate baselines of where we are right now in terms of what the nitrogen and phosphorus and sediment loads are. And calculating what the effectiveness of these conservation programs are, and how much of that is actually coming off ag lands,” Mills says.
She says a number of investments will go into effect in the next fiscal year, in October, to support the work that’s already being done by U.S.D.A.’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other federal agencies with their partners.
“We’re gonna get a much better sense of what is really happening on the landscape, so as we make future investments, we are investing those dollars wisely,” she says. “No only the taxpayers’ dollars, but also the farmers’ dollars. Because remember, they contribute dollars as part of the cost share of putting these practices in place.”
A science expo on new technologies for improving water quality was held Tuesday at Iowa State University’s BioCentury Research Farm as part of the task force’s meeting.