Illinois lawmakers sent legislation to Governor Quinn today that establishes a new program to help farmers use crop fertilizers more effectively, which is expected to reduce nutrient losses and deliver significant improvements in water quality.
The legislation, House Bill 5539, creates a Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC) which will utilize a fertilizer tonnage fee to establish and implement nutrient research, education and water quality programs.
The bill is part of the “Keep it for the Crop” initiative, which is supported by a coalition of agricultural and environmental organizations, including Sierra Club, working to improve soil and water quality in Illinois.
The program seeks to fund a vibrant nutrient research and education program and provide fertilizer suppliers and farmers with science-based recommendations and in-field practices to reduce nutrient losses and enhance nutrient efficiency through the adoption of the 4Rs- Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place.
Nutrient pollution occurs when excess nitrogen and phosphorus occur in bodies of water, which promotes excessive algae & plant growth leading to oxygen depletion, which can kill fish and other aquatic life. According to IEPA, both point sources and non-point sources contribute to the problem; this legislation fills a critical need for a program to specifically address how non-point sources including agricultural lands can reduce phosphorus and nitrogen losses.
Advocating for legislation like HB 5539 and the 2010 Lawn Care Act (prevents the use of phosphorus containing fertilizer by hired applicators) is just one part of the strategy Sierra Club is working on to reduce nutrient pollution in Illinois. More steps still need to be taken to remove nutrients from all major sources including sewage treatment plants, urban runoff and agriculture. Click here for more information about nutrient pollution