Proposed Fertilizer Policies Could Protect Farmer Profits, Environment

A new University of Illinois study explores potential policy solutions to reduce nitrogen loss while still protecting farmers’ bottom lines. Federal and state governments have shied away from regulating nitrogen fertilizer use, but voluntary and incentives-based programs have not been particularly successful, according to the researchers. University of Illinois assistant professor Nicolas Martin says, “We want to generate discussions on such policies, rather than provide definitive answers on which policy will be the best.” The first policy would modify price ratios, imposing a tax on nitrogen at a set ratio relative to the corn price. The second policy would charge farmers a fee for excess nitrogen leaching from fields above baseline levels. The third would subtract nitrogen removed in grain at harvest from nitrogen applied as fertilizer and would charge a fee for the balance. The final policy reflected a voluntary nitrogen reduction program like current programs in the Midwest. Among the four policies, the nitrogen leaching fee showed the best outcome.

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