Here we go again.
It happens at least once per year, usually many times per year: government agencies issue a news release announcing with pride the spending of millions of dollars to help agriculture clean up its contribution to the harmful and nuisance algal blooms that plague bodies of water like Lake Erie.
The gist of these news releases is that cutting edge science will be deployed to ascertain how much phosphorus goes from which fields under which practices into waterways. This, in turn, will lead to improvements in environmental stewardship by farmers. How will that happen? Voluntarily, of course.
The projects are funded, the results come in, and western Lake Erie continues to deteriorate.
The cycle is unbreakable because big agriculture has managed to exempt itself from most major environmental laws. That is, this industry gets special treatment. It is not nearly as consistently and aggressively regulated as are others. Another way of putting the last is that the ag lobby has over the years made it taboo to talk about any serious regulation of farm practices to protect the environment. Yet an estimated 85% of the phosphorus delivered to Erie from the Maumee River is of agricultural origin, much of it from factory farms.
If we had waited for municipalties and non-agricultural businesses to be inspired to reduce phosphorus rather than required to do so, Lake Erie would be beyond redemption.
The business as usual approach will not work. When will policy change to reflect that?