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USDA is on the right track

By Staff | Mar 24, 2020

Protecting and enhancing the quality of the Hawkeye State’s water resources is vitally important. That’s why the Iowa Water Quality Initiative was created in 2013. Among the goals is to help bring about a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to Iowa’s waters. This newspaper has strongly backed that undertaking.

That’s why we’re especially pleased to see one of the major components of the Agriculture Innovation Agenda just announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Among the department’s key goals is to support research and innovation that will help the nation’s farmers reduce nutrient runoff into the nation’s waters. That is very much in sync with what our state government is trying to achieve in the Hawkeye State. It is exciting that the USDA is moving aggressively to support the efforts here and in other states.

Another issue crucial in rural America is the maintenance and viability of the water systems that serve small towns and farm communities. The USDA is also addressing that issue. It has just entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new collaboration is designed to “help rural water systems face the challenges of aging infrastructure, workforce shortages, increasing costs, limited management capacity and declining rate bases.”

In announcing this initiative, Chad Rupe, who is the USDA’s rural utilities service administrator, said it is a priority to make sure that the water and waste infrastructure in rural areas is ready to handle present and future requirements.

“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to working collaboratively with our federal partners to help rural systems thrive and serve their communities, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives,” Rupe said.

We agree. Keeping the water and waste disposal systems that serve small towns in good shape is crucial. According to data provided by the USDA, there are 153,000 public drinking water systems in our nation. Approximately 97 percent serve less than 10,000 people. Similarly, 78 percent of the 15,000 wastewater treatment plants serve small population centers. Many of these communities need outside help to confront increasingly complex challenges.

Farm News applauds these worthwhile undertakings by the USDA. Rural America must address a variety of water quality issues in the decades ahead. It is encouraging that the top leaders at the USDA understand this and are positioning that agency to provide the assistance and expertise that farmers and small-town residents will need to cope with these challenges.

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