What is needed to make a change?

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It has been fairly well established that eutrophication from the Mississippi River basin is the largest cause of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. One way to help remedy this problem is to reduce the amount of nutrients draining into the Mississippi River. How to best do this is a question yet to be answered. Farmers are going to have to sacrifice land and crops; but to what extent and how much it will cost is very vague at this point.

A study done by the CENR suggested a 20% reduction in current fertilizer usage on crops in the Midwest. They cited that upwards of 30% would be too costly for the farmers, and that twenty percent was ideal because they could still turn relatively the same amount of profit. Their production would be reduced, but demand for the good and commodity price would increase to make up for that. The farmers argue that on an international market scene that wouldn't be the case. This would be even more expensive for livestock farmers to decrease the amount of manure produced by their animals.

One could also block the nutrients through use of wetlands. This comes at the expense of land to the farmers, but financially to the government. The amount of run-off that can realistically be blocked is not significant, and much more costly than simply reducing fertilizer application.

"America is still home to the most affordable and abundant food supply worldwide (Putze )." If the agriculture industry has to face a little loss in profit due to restrictions brought on by legislation aimed at curbing the hypoxia problem in the Gulf of Mexico than it should do so. The long term benefits of retaining and regaining biodiversity, and saving a fishing industry soon to be affected by the zone of deoxygenation. Better communication with the farmers of the Missippi River basin and perhaps some form of governmental compensation should also be in order. Action must be taken now as the hypoxic sone continues to increase and scientistics have identified a direct coorelation to eutrophication into the Mississippi River. Cynthia Sarthou, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, sums it up best: "If there was a dead zone 6 to 7000 square miles in the middle of Iowa, people would sit up and take notice. This is a problem that needs to be solved (Yoon, 1998)."

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