Addressing nutrient loss issues


In 2015 the Illinois Farm Bureau worked with various government agencies, environmental groups and agricultural organizations to develop the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy. The document outlines various initiatives farmers can incorporate on their lands to address nutrient loss issues.

The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS) guides state efforts to improve water quality by reducing nutrient levels in Illinois lakes, streams and rivers. The NLRS lays out a plan to leverage existing programs to optimize nutrient loss reduction across the state while promoting collaboration, research, and innovation across various sectors, including agriculture. The strategy outlines a comprehensive suite of best management practices (BMPs) for reducing nutrient loads from wastewater treatment plants and urban and agricultural runoff, as well as targeting the state’s most critical watersheds.

The strategy was developed by a policy working group led by the Illinois Water Resource Center-Illinois Indiana Sea Grant, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA). Group members included representatives from state and federal agencies, agriculture, and non-profit organizations as well as scientists and wastewater treatment professionals. The NLRS has produced Biennial Reports since 2015, with the most recent report being released in 2021.

Since NLRS’s development in 2015, IFB has served as an active participant in working groups and other collaboration opportunities in an effort to strategize and monitor progress in the agriculture sector. IFB has expanded its work on the NLRS in four priority areas: education and outreach to farmers, landowners and the general public; supporting research of best management practices to reduce nutrient loss from agricultural fields; supporting farmer implementation efforts across the state; and demonstrating progress toward the long-term goals of the NLRS.

IFB voluntarily provides the IDOA and the IEPA with activity reports on our organization’s efforts to implement the NLRS. This information is then incorporated into the larger NLRS Biennial Reports. Activity reports from 2015 through 2021 are available for those who are interested in our organizational metrics toward meeting the goals of the NLRS. In addition, we also have created a summary document that showcases our work on the NLRS from 2015 to present. IFB also has produced the 2021-2022

Environmental Report that you can use to showcase this work to your stakeholders at the local level.
Thanks to the many individuals – both staff and farmer leaders – who continue to make the issue of water quality a priority. It is because of the work of all of us, and the tracking of our efforts that we have a great story to tell on behalf of Illinois farmers.

Through leadership and participation from our farmer members across the state, IFB has been able to make meaningful contributions toward water quality improvements in Illinois. From 2016 to present, IFB has committed nearly $2.4 million of its own funding to build and maintain its stewardship programs.

The NLRS is a science-based framework for using research, technology and industry experience to assess and reduce nutrient loss to Illinois waters and to the Gulf of Mexico. The NLRS sets forth a plan to leverage existing programs to optimize nutrient loss reduction while promoting collaboration, research, and innovation among the private sector, academia, non-profits, wastewater treatment agencies, the agricultural sector, and state and local government.

The primary goals include reducing nitrate-nitrogen losses by 15 percent and reducing total phosphorus losses by 25 percent by the year 2025 from established baseline conditions. The NLRS was released in July of 2015 after multiple years of stakeholder discussions in which IFB participated.

In 2015, building off its existing water quality efforts, IFB created new programs to support farmer implementation of best management practices (BMPs) to help Illinois meet the goals of the NLRS. For the past several years, IFB has made it an organizational priority to lead on environmental issues, most notably, the NLRS.

“There are three stages of man: he believes in Santa Claus; he does not believe in Santa Claus; he is Santa Claus.” -Bob Phillips

Ron Kern is the manager of the Ogle County Farm Bureau.

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