Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy-Cook County Farm Bureau Efforts
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) guides state efforts to improve water quality by reducing nutrient levels in Illinois lakes, streams and rivers. The NLRS lays out a plan to leverage existing programs to optimize nutrient loss reduction across the state while promoting collaboration, research, and innovation across various sectors, including agriculture. The strategy outlines a comprehensive suite of best management practices (BMPs) for reducing nutrient loads from wastewater treatment plants and urban and agricultural runoff, as well as targeting the state’s most critical watersheds.
The strategy was developed by a policy working group led by the Illinois Water Resource Center-Illinois Indiana Sea Grant, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Group members included representatives from state and federal agencies, agriculture, and non-profit organizations as well as scientists and wastewater treatment professionals.
Since NLRS’s development in 2015, Farm Bureau has served as an active participant in working groups and other collaboration opportunities in an effort to strategize and monitor progress in the agriculture sector. Farm Bureau has expanded its work on the NLRS in four priority areas: 1) education and outreach to farmers, landowners and the general public; 2) supporting research of best management practices to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural fields; 3) supporting farmer implementation efforts across the state; and 4) demonstrating progress toward the long-term goals of the NLRS.
In 2021, Cook County Farm Bureau® partnered with Fulton County Farm Bureau, Illinois Farm Bureau® and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) for the Rural Urban Nutrient Exchange which featured a hands-on field day, tour of MWRD treatment facilities, and a discussion about projects going forward. The 2021 project was funded in part by the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Grant program offered through Farm Bureau.
In 2022, Cook County Farm Bureau is expanding its efforts in the area of nutrient loss to expand the Rural Urban Exchange program with Fulton County Farm Bureau as well as the inclusion of a presentation on the research at the Fulton County site as part of the 2022 Sustainability Summit. For the past nine years, MWRD has hosted a ‘Sustainability Summit’ featuring presentations on a variety of topics focused on best management practices, nutrient reuse, and biosolids. Summit attendees include county and municipal leadership and staff as well as urban gardeners and community members. The outward facing aspects of this program, will be partially funded through a grant from Compeer Financial.
A second new addition to this partnership is the promotion of MWRD’s EQ Biosolid and EQ Compost programs. EQ Biosolids are a product of wastewater treatment that supplies organic matter and improves the structure and porosity of soils, which allows plants to more effectively utilize nutrients. EQ Compost is a sustainable and environmentally beneficial product derived from the water reclamation process.
The final addition is research into the use of struvite on Cook County farms as it relates to specialty and row crops. Through advancements in technology, MWRD is able to recover phosphorus and nitrogen and product struvite a high value fertilizer. Throughout the 2022 growing season, farmers and researchers will test the agronomic and yield benefits of using struvite on farms. Farmers interested in participating in the research are encouraged to contact Bona Heinsohn at [email protected] for additional information.