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Runoff from Iowa Farms Growing Concern in Gulf

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page, Iowa News, Louisiana News, and our Texas News page.

CHAUVIN, La. -- Generations of shrimpers, crabbers and oystermen have set out from this bayou village to net their catch.

They share an emotional bond with Iowa's farmers: Both harvest nature's bounty to earn a livelihood. These fishermen depend on the sea, just as the nation's top corn growers rely on the rich Midwest soil.

But there's a key difference. Iowa farmers always know where they'll find their crop. For those who work these waters, locating their harvest has become an increasingly taxing game of hide-and-seek.

Nitrates from the fertilizer and manure that Iowa's farmers apply to their fields, mixed with sewage and runoff from suburban lawns, flow 800 miles down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

There, the potent blend feeds algae that bloom, die and decompose, robbing the Gulf's waters of oxygen and creating a so-called dead zone - also known as hypoxia - each summer along Louisiana and Texas. Shellfish and other creatures capable of moving to more hospitable waters do so.

Those that can't perish.
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