A fixable problem

EDITORIALS

BY ART CULLEN

A report from the Environmental Working Group unnecessarily raises concerns about arsenic presence in Storm Lake’s drinking water as part of a national database on drinking water contaminants. As our story Wednesday explained, trace amounts of arsenic occur naturally in aquifer water and are well within federal guidelines that are updated as new science emerges. The best guidance remains that our water is safe to drink.

Of far greater concern is the presence of toxic compounds resulting from Des Moines being forced to remove nitrate from river water treated for consumption. Levels are so high in the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers that the Des Moines Water Works has built the world’s largest nitrate removal facility. That process creates trihalomethanes that can be hazardous to human health. We can’t help that arsenic resides in aquifers. We can control how much nitrogen we apply to farmland in northern Iowa that creates problems downstream in Des Moines. We also can control how much of that nitrogen strays from its intended application, to fertilize crops, through various inexpensive (and profitable) conservation techniques. But there is little incentive to do so.

Water source pollution is a problem we can and should address, and it is helpful for EWG to remind us of it with credible data.

Farmers are eager to be part of the solution if the government wants to be a real partner. Support is growing rapidly for practices such as planting fall cover crops to keep nutrients in place, help rebuild soil and maintain water quality. Tighter margins are squeezing farmers to rethink their chemical use, and how they can maintain or increase yields while reducing expense. All the leading Democratic campaigns propose paying farmers much more for conservation practices on working lands — by as much as 15-fold, in the case of Elizabeth Warren.

We can solve the problem of surface water pollution in Iowa readily, and stop this needless pollution of our precious drinking water supplies.

It requires a different approach to agriculture. The chemical companies will fight it, just as the oil companies have been fighting ethanol the past 40 years. If we put people first — farmers and city water consumers — instead of global chemical and seed companies Iowa can reach its wholesome potential.

A deficit of sense

Faced with a $1 trillion federal budget deficit this year, Sen. Joni Ernst came on strong by pushing a ban on advertising by federal agencies. She complained about the USDA handing out coloring books for pork month, or swag bags with pens with slogans about not smoking. The Iowa Republican is creative in her fiscal discipline.

Interest on the debt alone is $400 billion annually. That’s enough to pay for Medicaid.

The $20 billion in aid to farmers because of Trump’s trade war with China could have been used to reduce the deficit. It’s twice the size of President Obama’s auto bailout — except this bailout was self-inflicted by Trump.

Ernst voted for the $1 trillion tax cut that has not spurred the economic activity President Trump promised. The 400 richest Americans now pay as much tax as a truck driver.

The war in Afghanistan costs $48 billion per year. Congressional candidate JD Scholten points out that could deploy broadband all across rural America. Or it could be used to buy down debt.

Ernst has said that the deficit may cause us to rewrite Social Security benefits. That is not how you win an Iowa senate re-election. Better to concentrate on the coloring books, since she is in the majority party that has created the deficits in the first place.

How much more of these deficit hawks — Trump, Ernst, King, et al, who made this mess — can we stand? And, when did Republicans start treating deficits like a joke? Because, that’s what Ernst is doing.

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