St. Charles Herald-Guide

Dead zone gets bigger as incentives grow

Our View - December 5, 2007

As if Louisiana does not have enough trouble with its eroding wetlands, it is faced with a huge dead zone right off its coast.

The zone, in which fish find it difficult to live, has been created primarily by fertilizer floating down the Mississippi River from farmlands in the midwest, feeding algae which die and rob the Gulf of Mexico of oxygen. This forces the fishlife to escape to other locations or else die.

Just recently, the two shrimp platforms which buy and sell shrimp at Grand Isle have been forced to close because of increased competition from imports of the seafood. Now the dead zone is bound to impact our fishing economy further.
Voluntary efforts among the states and farmers have been made for some 10 years to decrease the size of that dead zone. But now it is bigger than ever - - the size of the state of Connecticut.

The problem has become worse this year because of the incentive for more farmers to raise corn. This is due to the boom in production of ethanol from corn to fuel automobiles. In fact, farmers are even getting a federal subsidy to raise it, which is paying for killing our fish.

Stronger measures are needed to end this problem. In the past, farmers were “asked” not to allow fertilizer overruns into streams that lead to the river and to allow for wetland areas around their farmlands to soak up the overflow.

We certainly want the farmers to be able to produce the crops our country needs to feed its citizens and also, possibly, to relieve the  reliance on gasoline as fuel. But not at the expense of our fisheries. They help to feed us, too.