A Risk for the Chesapeake
Tom Simpson and Daphne Pee had it right in their Aug. 26 Close to Home commentary, "How Corn Ethanol Could Pollute the Bay," but it is important to note the urgency of this issue. This year, in response to record high prices, farmers in the region planted approximately 200,000 more acres of corn, generating 3 million additional pounds of nitrogen that will flow to the Chesapeake Bay. That much nitrogen neatly cancels the annual average reduction of just over 2 million pounds of nitrogen kept out of the bay by agricultural management practices each year during the past 10 or so years.
A new report from the Chesapeake Bay Commission recommends greatly expanded use of cover crops and buffers to counter the increases in nitrogen pollution from hundreds of thousands more acres of corn.
Fortunately, we in the state legislatures in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia can ramp up these efforts and are considering new programs to better fund agricultural conservation. As a region, we must embrace the national drive for energy independence and develop new, non-polluting biofuels crops and the processing plants to support them. However, we must not do this to the detriment of water quality and human health.
(Revised August 2007)