What effect does action to fight eutrophication of the Mississippi River have on the farmers of the Mississippi Basin?

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Within the last twenty years there has been a new awareness of an environmentral disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A large hypoxic or dead zone has formed in the Gulf, devastating the aquatic life. Scientific studies have concluded the major cause of this hypoxia is nutrient loading from farmland fertilizers into the Mississippi River. New legislation and action to decrease this nutrient eutrophication has been proposed. What is the cost to the farmers when the amount of fertilizers they're allowed to use is restricted, and the land they farm taken away for environmental protection?

The two most popular approaches to reducing Nitrogen loading is restoration of wetlands to block the nutrients and fertilizer restrictions of the farms. The cost of contructing new wetlands tends to exceed the benefits in fertilizer reduction. Fertilizer restriction is a more cost effective means that leaves most of the cost with the farmers. The theory is that, even though farmers may lose productivity due to the fertilizer restrictions, they can gain profits through a raise in commodity prices due to demand. "In Butler County in northeastern Iowa, reduced Nitrogen usage and taking credits from livestock manure and alfalfa increased profits from $8 to $30 per acre (Johnson 1999)." The farmers argue this to be untrue due to such a large international market in which people have a multitude of choices and can simply chose to buy elsewhere.

Agricultural fertilizers alone account for more than fifty percent of the annual nitrogen input into the Mississippi River basin. A policy to reduce these numbers would require that farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio make costly changes, which will benefit residents in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. Farmers already bear some burden of environmental regulation. Should they be willing to reduce a problem they're not entirely convinced they're causing? Yes. The loss of biodiveristy in the Gulf is already astronomical, and before long the fishing industry will be taking a blow as well. A lack of definite data, and a relatively new examination of this problem is not an excuse for not making a change. The Agriculture business of America is strong and can withstand restrictions which have yet to be proven too costly.

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