Investing in nutrient research and water quality

Published: Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 2:34 p.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD — An assessment has been established on Illinois fertilizer sales to fund nutrient research at state universities and improve water quality.

The assessment was authorized in legislation (HB 5539) signed into law last August that had the support of both agricultural and environmental interests. The bill created the Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), a 14-member group comprised of representatives from farm, fertilizer, university and environmental organizations as well as the directors of the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to provide leadership for the program.

The council has set the assessment at 75 cents per ton. Fertilizer dealers must remit payments on a semi-annual basis to NREC as a condition of their license to sell fertilizer in Illinois.

“Through the NREC, Illinois agriculture is taking a strong leadership role in defining and funding programs that will assure we utilize new information and technology to manage our soil and water resources not only for today, but also for the future,” IDOA Acting Director Robert Flider said.

The tonnage assessment on fertilizer to fund IDOA’s fertilizer quality, safety and inspection program has not changed. It remains 25 cents a ton.

Last year, Illinois agriculture groups launched the “Keep It for the Crop,” or KIC, nutrient stewardship program. KIC identifies and promotes practices that enhance nutrient uptake and reduce nutrient losses from the ag sector, a win for farmers and for the environment. NREC will support the KIC program as well as invest in nutrient efficiency and water quality research at state universities.

“Illinois must have a water quality strategy that balances crop production needs with water quality goals,” said Dale Hadden, who serves as a grower representative on the Council. “NREC will provide the structure to continually identify nutrient practices that farmers can adapt to their own unique fields, soil types and cropping systems to increase nutrient efficiency, which goes hand-in-hand with productivity, profitability and environmental responsibility.”

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