for every farmer in every location. The choice of whether
organic or nonorganic, till or no-till methods should be used
depends on the source of organic manure and whether nitro-
gen or phosphorus runoff is a greater problem in the region,
among other things.
Everywhere that chemical fertilizer and livestock manure
are applied to land there are some water pollution issues.
Sometimes they are hardly recognizable and sometimes they
result in eutrophication. The good news is that scientists can
easily detect water quality problems, and solutions for mitigat-
ing the problems are known. The problem is solvable, but the
motivation to solve it isn't always strong.
For example, on the one hand, the Chesapeake Bay is a
relatively small area, and its runoff problems are caused
by local sources. Citizens seem ready and willing to pass
the kinds of regulations that should eventually restore its
quality. They are willing to pay the cost because they will
receive the benefit. On the other hand, there seems to exist
a fatalistic attitude towards the dead zone in the Gulf of
Mexico. The zone is caused in part by every farm within
the Mississippi basin, which includes Louisiana, Nebraska,
Iowa, Ohio, and even Montana, just to name a few contribu-
tors. What is the likelihood that Montana wheat farmers and
Iowa hog farmers will cooperate to reduce nutrient runoff
into the Gulf of Mexico—a gulf very few of them will visit?
For these reasons, small water sources affected by only local
communities are more likely to solve the fertilizer problem.
In areas like the Gulf of Mexico, however, there is little pros-
pect for a solution other than strict federal regulations, and
that solution has few supporters. There is little doubt that
a very large fertilizer tax would reduce runoff, but policies
that hike food prices are not very popular with citizens, and
therefore, are not popular with politicians either.