In the final scene of the 1957 movie “The Bridge On The River Kwai,” the prison camp doctor is shown starring down at the fallen bodies of his comrades. He is only commentary on this carnage is a single word, uttered twice: “Madness.”
Oftentimes when I attend seminars around the country, this word comes to mind – especially when I hear how non-industry “do-gooders” would regulate agriculture if given the chance. Last week, I attended a Nutrient Management event in Mount Carmel, IL, hosted by Wabash Valley Service Co. The overriding theme of this day-long affair was how agriculture could maximize its profits while maintaining a “green” profile. In particular, many speakers focused their attention on fertilizer.
Now although its been the target of some environmental activists, fertilizer has nonetheless enjoyed some use latitude. It isn’t as regulated as crop protection products tend to be or protested against in the public eye as biotech crops are. But that doesn’t mean fertilizer is any less threatened with such regulations.
“Fertilizer is kind of the final frontier for regulations,” said Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, at the event. “Crop protection products are heavily regulated. If you don’t think this can happen to fertilizer, you are wrong. There are a lot of guys out there who would love nothing more than to tell you in agriculture how much fertilizer you can apply and when.”
Payne went on to point out that some special interest groups in states such as Minnesota and Ohio have proposed eliminating the use of drainage tile in crop fields to reduce the chance of unwanted run-off. She even mentioned that some ag critics in the state of Missouri have advocated all of the growers in the Show-Me State adopt organic growing practices.
To quote the movie, “madness.”
As Payne said, Illinois is doing what it can as a state to combat these “do-gooders.” This includes the founding of the Nutrient Research & Education Council and the Keep It for the Crop Initiative, both of which provide research into the proper use of fertilizer.
“Our industry needs to become the new Extension,” says Payne. “Right now, we in Illinois have a leg up on other states that aren’t doing anything. But it’s sure to be everyone in ag’s problem in the end.”