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Ruling postponed on manure ban in soybean fields

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Controversy over a potential ban on applying manure to soybean fields caused the state’s Environmental Protection Commission to postpone a final decision, officials said Tuesday.

The commission voted during a meeting in Fort Dodge to draft an amended version of the proposed ban. The new rule would allow farmers to use up to 100 pounds of manure per acre on ground used for soybeans, but after five years the practice would be banned, according to Wayne Gieselman, the administrator of the Environmental Services Division of the Iowa Department of Natural Services.

Proponents of the ban argue that soybeans don’t need the nutrients provided by manure. They say manure leaves too much nitrogen in the soil and creates nitrate pollution when it runs into state waterways.

"There’s enough science to show that there’s actual water contamination," Gieselman said after the meeting at which scientists spoke about pollution.

Soybean producers said more research needs to be done to asses the impact of manure on water quality. They also feel that the EPC is unfairly targeting the livestock industry, said Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association.

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"It’s become a political issue by members of the EPC, who are more interested in making a political statement than improving water quality in Iowa," Leeds said.

Adam Mason, a rural organizer and member of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said several members of his group attended the meeting hoping for a finalized ban.

"We’re still happy to see the language of the new rule still reflect the need to ban manure on soybeans," Mason said. "But it’s disappointing to see the amount of time that this practice will continue."

EPC staff will draft the new proposal and submit it at the commission next’s hearing on Dec. 6. If passed, the proposal would still have to undergo a six-month rule-making process, Gieselman said.

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