By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Illinois’ Fertilizer and Chemical Assoc. (IFCA) will lead a charge to repel a recommendation being considered by the state’s EPA to set limits on allowable nitrogen and phosphorus levels in Illinois waterways.
This was among the revelations shared by leaders at the IFCA Annual Meeting Jan. 29 at the Peoria Civic Center. “A lot of things demand our attention right now. For the last eight years I have been up here talking about nutrient issues, because we must never forget that we in Illinois are the No. 1 contributor of nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) present in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Jean Payne, IFCA president.
“We are yet to have any litigation, regulation or legislation aimed at nutrient use of farms in Illinois. We continue to have peace with the environmental community, legislators, the Illinois EPA and the Department of Agriculture.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, as part of the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), it was decided to look into the amount of N and P in streams. The NLRS now involves a proposed N and P standard in streams of 0.1 parts per million (ppm) P and 3.9 ppm N,” she explained.
“We have never really before had water quality requirements in streams, but as part of the (NLRS), the U.S. EPA required every state to look at the possibility of (setting) a numeric standard for streams. This means if someone were to take a sample from the creek behind your house, it would be expected to adhere to the numeric limits of the standard.”
Payne hinted that the Illinois EPA office knew of the new U.S. EPA requirement before Christmas, but “in the interest of not being the Grinch” decided to withhold the information from the organization until after the holidays had passed.
“The standard is shocking because the drinking water standard is 10 ppm for nitrate. One part per million is a softball (size) in a football field, and 0.1 ppm is a fly on the softball in a football field,” she said, adding that IFCA is working with scientists not associated with the recommendation to draft a rebuttal to the proposal.
“This will be taking up a lot of our time in 2019. We’re working with the Farm Bureau, the corn growers, soybean association and (industry) to be able to hire a team of scientists to look at this document. We are not just going to send letters to the EPA.”
Payne went on to describe other challenges in front of the IFCA in 2019, including reaching out and educating some 50 new members in the Illinois state legislature.
“Trust has to be earned, and we look at these 50 new people and realize we will have to earn their trust. I feel like IFCA has had that trust at the State Capitol, but it has to be nurtured and taken care of, and we are very dedicated to that,” she noted.
To that end, she vowed to those gathered that she and IFCA Director of Government and Industry Relations Kevin (K.J.) Johnson would work diligently to reach out to the new lawmakers in Springfield.
In addition, Payne said a new survey would be mailed to fertilizer and chemical dealers and other ag retailers in IFCA’s membership base during February. The surveys will ask the retailers to document the “4R” practices they encourage their farmer-customers to observe.
“We need to gather some metrics to share with the other stakeholders, because we are voluntarily complying with efforts to reduce nutrient loss while our point-source friends are spending millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities to comply with their NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits,” she said.
“We don’t have NPDES permits, so we have to come up with other ways to chart our progress on how we are managing nutrients on farm acres here in Illinois. We want to be able to show our progress over the next 10 years. The EPA is trusting us to create our own survey and method to chart our progress for them.”
Prior to the president’s report, IFCA Chair Regan Wear offered a summary of the group’s 2018 accomplishments, including accommodating more than 3,000 spray operators in need of dicamba herbicide application training, in spite of the new dicamba labels being issued as late as Oct. 31.
In addition, IFCA’s “Keep It 4R Crop” program has produced measurable reductions in nitrogen levels in Illinois waterways, and its successful ammonia training program expanded across Illinois’ borders by contracting with other states to provide regulatory compliance and safety training, Wear said.
Ten youth scholarship winners were also announced during the IFCA Annual Meeting, including for the Lang Aldrich Scholarship, Robert G. Hoeft Scholarship, Midwest Ag Scholarship and IFCA Scholarship.