Snap out of it, Iowans: Industrial agriculture is the problem

By Allen Bonini, Apr 28 2024

Allen Bonini retired in January 2021 after nearly 45 years as an environmental professional, serving in various technical, managerial and leadership positions in water quality, recycling and solid waste across the states of Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois. Most recently, he served fifteen and a half years as the supervisor of the Watershed Improvement Section at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. In retirement he continues to advocate for responsible public policy and actions to improve and protect water quality in Iowa.

Even if 100 percent of urban Iowa eliminated all of its pollution runoff, Iowa would not even come close to solving its water quality problems. In fact, if this improbable scenario were even possible, it would solve, at most, 10 to 15 percent of Iowa’s water quality problems. The real, fundamental, root problem impacting Iowa’s water quality is industrial agriculture. Yes, I said industrial agriculture.

Notice I didn’t say “conventional” agriculture. Today’s Iowa agriculture is anything but “conventional.” It is a product of the industrialization of an activity that used to be carried out by 85 percent or more of Americans not much more than 100 years ago when most people lived on farms and raised food for their own consumption and for their neighbors in surrounding communities. That is true conventional agriculture.

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