There is nothing more basic to human existence than soil and water. When they are not healthy, we are not healthy. Our community must be regenerative in order to thrive, and key to this is caring for our water and our soil.
The serious issue of nitrates and other farm chemicals in our streams, rivers and lakes has been a hot issue in Iowa lately. Everyone agrees it is a problem, but many of Big Ag's friends at the legislature and on Terrace Hill want to address it with an approach that not only "robs Peter to pay Paul," but it also puts the burden squarely on everyone except the ones who do a majority of the polluting. This is a common practice of a philosophy that calls itself "conservative," while rarely conserving anything except personal wealth - privatizing profit while socializing costs.
The farm may belong to a person, or to a corporation, but the soil belongs to us all. The stream may run through private property, but the water belongs to us all. When someone ruins the soil, when a corporation pollutes the water, it is their responsibility to clean it up.
If a man came and dumped a load of hog waste on your front yard, should he be able to say, "Look at that mess! You and your neighbors ought to clean that up!" Of course not.
At the county level our options are few because the state has taken away local control.
The solutions at the state level are many, and yes, the urban population ought to participate in them, but in reasonable proportion to its role in creating the problem. Most studies conclude that the nitrates in our water are about 90% from farm runoff and CAFO lagoon seepage and spills. Roughly 10% come from urban fertilizer use and septic tank seepage. Most farmers are good stewards of the land, but those who are not are making the rest look bad, and the "good actors" ought to be leading the fight to stop the polluters.
Governor Reynolds' idea of taking money from education to fund water cleanup is a non-starter. Not only because it takes away from education (a ludicrous notion), but because the idea of leveraging a sales tax hits urban dwellers far harder since large farms pay almost no sales tax on things like fertilizer and feed, which are the things that are causing the pollution.
A better idea is to create incentives for large ag operations to do the right thing in the first place, such as a menu of good practices (cover crops, etc) from which a farm must choose and implement in order to be eligible to receive crop insurance - something nearly all farmers want. Perhaps this could be further facilitated by the state offering low-interest loans to offset conservation costs.
With the threat of global warming not just looming but present, taking care of Iowa's precious water and soil becomes even more important, and worth instituting regulations to protect it.