Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Shrinks

Is Ag taking the blame for someone else’s problem?

The 'dead zone'

Sally Schuff over at Feedstuffs takes a good hard look at one of the sticks the enviros are using to beat farmers and ranchers over the head with. The Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ unexpectedly shrank last year, prompting some to call for additional studies as to the cause of the hypoxia zone.

Last summer, scientists who study the so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico were startled to find that the area had shrunk to 3,000 square miles — just half of the zone’s average size and far below the 7,500-8,500 square miles forecasted for 2009.

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration scientists theorized that the unexpected shrinkage of the hypoxic zone was due to the year’s weather conditions, but they were curious enough to call for additional study. Measurements of the dead zone will continue this year.

The finding did not surprise the Missouri Water Quality Commission, which had successfully kept the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping phosphorus-laden sediments into the Missouri River since early 2008. The Missouri River is a major tributary to the Gulf.

Others are now joining in the call for a study to determine if agriculture is simply taking the blame for nutrient loading in the nation’s waterways when the nutrients are actually coming from other sources.

Since part of the upper Missouri River watershed is in North Dakota, state agriculture commissioner Doug Goehring said in a January statement that Missouri’s problems with the Corps have “serious implications for North Dakota and for American agriculture.”


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