MWRD and Farm Bureaus Work Together on Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy
The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS), coordinated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA), University of Illinois Extension, and a multi-stakeholder working group, was established in 2015. Its creation follows a 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plan to achieve at least a 45% reduction in total nitrate-nitrogen (N) and total phosphorus (P) discharged into rivers. The U.S. EPA recommended provided framework in 2011 and in 2015, the IL NLRS was developed with its first goal of reducing the total P load by 25% and the N load by 15% by 2025.
In working toward that goal, a collaboration was established between the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB). Lauren Lurkins, Director of Environmental Policy at the Illinois Farm Bureau, represented IFB in early NLRS meetings looking at how to move forward in reducing nutrient load. “We focused on awareness of the issue among our farmer members, and then moved toward a focus on implementation,” she said. “In doing so, we created IFB’s Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program to provide resources to county farm bureaus for the NLRS efforts at the local level.” The grant program has helped to further Cook County Farm Bureau’s participation in the NLRS.
A rural-urban partnership created a link with the MWRD and IFB at a research and demonstration site in Fulton County. “The MWRD is the state’s largest wastewater treatment organization, and they own land in Fulton County just outside of Cuba, Illinois. MWRD has dedicated portions of the Fulton County property to aid in the research of best practices with an eye toward nutrient loss reduction,” said Lurkins.
The site has been a gathering location for several Nutrient Stewardship Field Days where information is shared about site projects that include cover crop inter-seeding, woodchip bioreactors, grass buffer, and drainage water management research. The field days have been an opportunity for farmer leaders from the Cook County Farm Bureau to strengthen and expand their relationship with MWRD Commissioners and staff.
This year’s focus for Cook County Farm Bureau under the Nutrient Stewardship Grant Program will involve partnering with MWRD and the University of Illinois on on-farm research of slow-release fertilizer products from the MWRD treatment process, promotion and distribution of MWRD compost and biosolids products, and additional collaboration in the form of tours and meetings between the partners.