The Fertilizer Savings Bill: A Win-Win for Farms and Water

The Problem: 

Fertilizer Waste: Despite farmers being cost conscious, most of the fertilizer that farmers and land managers apply to crops is wasted. At least 30-40% of the fertilizer applied to most major U.S. crops simply washes away as runoff or leaches into our water supply. Farmers and other land managers are losing money.
Wasted Fertilizer Turns into Water Pollution: More than 70% of Oregonians get some of their drinking water f om groundwater sources, and 700,000 (23%) of Oregonians rely on private wells as their primary source of water. Yet in many parts of the state, Oregon’s groundwater is unsafe. There are already three major areas in Oregon with unsafe drinking water due to nitrate pollution, and more areas of concern. Oregonians are unknowingly drinking water that could lead to cancer, miscarriage “blue baby syndrome” and other health risks. Primary sources of groundwater contamination are agricultural fertilizers, septic tanks, livestock and wildlife.
Two of the areas with identified nitrate pollution have been a known threat to Oregonians for 25 years (Malheur and Lower Umatilla), and a third for 10 years (Southern Willamette), and yet we still haven’t solved this problem. We need to invest in better solutions now.

The Solution

Invest in Voluntary Solutions to Reduce Fertilizer Waste and Protect Water Quality
Oregon needs to invest in more funding for research and education to help right-size fertilizer use across the state, increasing the health of our soils and improving water quality while making farming more profitable. Updating Oregon State University’s fertilizer and soil fertility recommendations, many of which are several decades out-of-date could save farmers thousands of dollars per year. Most experts agree that farmers have the opportunity to reduce their fertilizer use by 30% on average.

The Fertilizer Savings Bill (HB 2718) Would:

  • Increase grant funding through Oregon’s Fertilizer Research Program to a minimum of $300,000/year by dedicating at least $.25/ton from Oregon’s fertilizer tonnage tax to the grant program, and expanding the purpose of grants to include education and technical assistance in addition to research.
  • Increase capacity at OSU to develop recommendations, tools and training in building soil health and increasing nutrient use efficiency by dedicating at least $0.1/ton annually from tonnage tax revenues to fund an OSU soil science faculty position.
  • Increase the Fertilizer Registration Fee cap from $25 to $50 annually (this mirrors an ODA legislative proposal).
  • Increase the Fertilizer Tonnage Tax cap from $0.45 to $0.75/ton.
To ensure safe drinking water for Oregonians, we need to invest more now in fertilizer saving research and education. Read more about this important bill. [PDF]

Sponsor: Representative Clem

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