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1000 Friends of Iowa

Environmental Working Group Releases "Losing Ground" Report PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 April 2011

"Losing Ground", a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), found that soil erosion in Iowa is much worse than previously reported. Federal officials estimate Iowa loses 5 tons of soil per acre per year, but the report found that following some storms in 2009, areas of Iowa lost as much as 100 tons of soil per acre. There are Iowa farmers, conservation minded, who are doing their best to protect our soil and water by planting grass strips to prevent gullies and plant trees and grass to act as buffers between streams and the crop-fields where they apply pesticides & fertilizer. Most farmers plant fence row to fence row and right up to stream banks to produce as much as they possibly can due to federal subsidies that encourage production over conservation.

Irresponsible farming practices, and the federal subsidies that encourage the practices, are putting soil and water at risk.

Read the full report "Losing Ground" at, and watch the "Losing Ground" video at

Iowa groups have put together the following talking points on the EWG "Losing Ground" report & video:

Iowa is Losing Ground

  • Things are not all rosy on the Iowa landscape. The current, voluntary efforts at soil and water conservation are NOT enough to save productive soils and keep water clean.
  • It is possible for Iowa farmland to be gone. We take it for granted. But if an area loses 25 or 50 or 100 tons of soil during a storm, it suffers. It can't produce as well. Eventually, it can't produce crops at all.

Aftermath of a Storm

  • Even a single storm can seriously a field or a river, with soil loss 10 or 20 times higher than "average". Those local losses harm our waters and our land's productivity in ways that "average" numbers can camouflage.

Fooling Ourselves

  • "Average" soil loss figures make Iowans too comfortable. They don't show that the lands and waters nearest our homes might be suffering the most damage - with an impact 10 or 20 times the average.
  • Erosion Adds Up
  • Each time it rains, erosion damages Iowa lakes and rivers - over and over and over.
  • Those who care about the Raccoon River,the Cedar River, the Iowa River... all Iowa Rivers... should care about soil loss and land management.

Simple Practices... Big Improvement

  • This report doesn't ask farmers to try new or technological methods. It simply shows it's important to return to the simple, common-sense conservation techniques that worked for their fathers and grandfathers.
  • Grass waterways were common in Iowa fields for decades, and they worked - yet now they are scarce. Filter strips are simple.
  • Farmers are not all the same. We should all be very grateful to the good farmers who manage land well and hold their soil in place. And we should be appalled at those who abuse the land as if there were no future Iowans who will depend on Iowa's land and water.

Look, and You'll See It

  • This video can be a minute eye-opener for Iowans who don't know very much about soil loss.
  • This video can give Iowans "new eyes" to really see the landscape as we travel this spring. Let's all SEE the soil that washes away with each rain, the gullies that form in fields. When we see dirt piled in a ditch, let's remember that much more dirt is piling into the rivers lakes. And when we see grass waterways or filter strps, or fields without tillage, let's remember the great farmers who are doing their best to conserve the soil.