A “nutrient exchange” — similar to the “carbon credits” considered a few years ago at the federal level — would be created in Iowa if legislation being developed by Republicans in the Iowa House becomes law.
Republican Representative Chip Baltimore of Boone said it’s about sparking “collaboration” rather than confrontation to clean up the state’s surface water.
“At least in my conversations, there’s broad-based, very generic…interest in a nutrient exchange,” Baltimore said last week during a House subcommittee meeting. “We’ve got some pilot projects that are out there that are working their way through, but I think having some formal recognition of the nutrient exchange may help move that process along.”
Here’s how a “nutrient exchange” works: a facility that has to get a state permit because it discharges pollution — places like a water treatment plant or a manufacturing facility — enters into a swap with a farmer. The end result? New financing for on-the-farm improvements to reduce nutrient run-off from cropland. Critics like Jessica Mazour of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement call it “pollution trading.”
“You can make it as complicated as you want, but basically…it does nothing, but just transfers pollution across our state,” she said at last week’s subcommittee hearing.
States like Connecticut, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio have established “nutrient exchanges.” Supporters say it’s a “market-based” way to address the nutrient and sediment loss from farms.