Gulf Dead Zone Topic of Discussion in The Big Easy

Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain was in New Orleans Tuesday to address the Hypoxic Task Force, a nationwide group charged with reducing the hypoxic zone (Dead Zone) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Strain says the group grew out of the question:  how do we have better conservation? 

One area of discussion grew out of a question posed to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack right after the last farm bill was passed. Strain said a reporter asked the secretary what was the most important aspect of the bill.  Vilsack replied “Very simple…conservation.”

Without conservation, “we lose sustainability and when we lose sustainability we lose food security. We lose food security we lose national security,” said Strain.

In the last 30 years, US agriculture has decreased its need for inputs by over 65%, the commissioner points out.  “Now we are looking at ways to conserve more PH and more N.  How can we put more of those chemicals exactly in the roots of the plant when we need it?” says Strain.  Answering that question would cut down drastically on run-off from farm fields.

The main program doing this in Louisiana is the volunteer Master Farmer Program from the LSU AgCenter.  Strain points out the program includes classroom time, on-farm demonstrations and requires a total resource management plan for the entire farm.

“Voluntary conservation that has increased profitability by decreasing the amount of inputs and the  amount of run-off,” says Strain.