Commitment to Water Quality: Growers’ Voluntary Efforts Bring Progress

December 20, 2023

Commitment to Water Quality: Growers’ Voluntary Efforts Bring Progress

Dec 20, 2023

Key Issues:Sustainability

Author: Stacey Stiens


The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) applauds the sustained reductions in nutrient losses reaching the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting reductions in the average size of the hypoxic zone, as recently documented in the 2023 Report to Congress by the Hypoxia Task Force (HTF). NCGA commends growers for the practical conservation steps and measures they have voluntarily adopted on their farms to reduce nutrient losses and protect water quality.


"In the journey of water quality stewardship, we are encouraged by the strides made by growers,” said Minnesota grower and NCGA Stewardship Action Team Chair Bryan Biegler. “The commitment to sustainable practices is clear, and despite challenging weather patterns impacting growers, we see definite progress taking form over the course of a five-year rolling average. It's a demonstration to the resilience and dedication of the agricultural community in achieving our shared vision for a healthier, more sustainable future."


According to the HTF’s 2023 report, “[p]rogress to date on reducing nitrogen loads has been strong: the Task Force has met its 2025 interim target to reduce total nitrogen loads by 20 percent. However, total phosphorus loads have increased. More work is needed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus by 48 percent to meet the HTF’s 2035 goal.”


While challenges remain, the commitment of the agricultural community demonstrates dedication to achieving sustainable and lasting improvements. Continued collaboration, research and proactive communication will be keys to ensuring the success of ongoing efforts to reduce the size of the Gulf Hypoxic Zone.


"This progress would not be possible without farmers’ making their own private, voluntary problem-solving commitments to improve nutrient management and resource conservation on their farms,” said NCGA Stewardship and Sustainability Director Rachel Orf. “But in addition to these private, self-funded efforts, federal funding also plays a key role,” she added, noting that “the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act are important sources of support for farmers and the states to work together to implement nutrient reduction strategies and support climate-smart practices. Collaboration is key to achieving lasting progress as we work to address complex environmental challenges.”


Established in 1997, the Hypoxia Task Force is comprised of five federal agencies, 12 states bordering the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and the National Tribal Water Council. The 2023 report emphasizes the enormity of the task in managing water, nitrogen, and phosphorus entering the Gulf of Mexico, covering a vast area across 31 states and two Canadian provinces.