ISAP Releases NLRS Overview for Farmers and Farm Advisors

In 2015, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) released the Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy (NLRS). The strategy quantified nutrient loads from multiple sources and set aggressive reduction targets for the amounts of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and total phosphorus (TP) leaving the state. The strategy laid out best practices to achieve reductions, including interim reductions to be achieved by 2025. Recently, IEPA and IDOA released the 2023 NLRS Biennial Report, which describes activities from 2015 through 2022.

To help farmers and farm advisors better understand the key takeaways from the nearly 300-page report, the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership has released a two-page document outlining information covered in the report. The overview from ISAP is designed to build awareness of the NLRS among farmer and farm advisor audiences, highlight challenges in meeting NLRS targets, and connect users to a variety of ISAP and partner resources to support conservation learning and action.


The main takeaway is clear: Illinois is not on track to meet the interim (2025) goals of the NLRS for non-point source pollution.


While overall nutrient loads remain high, point source contributors have successfully reduced their total phosphorus loads by 34% via National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits. Despite significant investment and effort, nutrient losses attributed to non-point source sector, which includes agriculture, are increasing. Levels of conservation practice adoption have increased, but not at the pace or scale needed to meet NLRS targets.

Illinois is approaching a critical point in the implementation of the NLRS – the interim target date of 2025 – and the agriculture sector and its partners must demonstrate that collective investments in   conservation, outreach, and education can achieve desired impacts on water quality. For the voluntary adoption model to be successful, each farmer or landowner, with the help of trusted advisors, must evaluate nutrient loss reduction opportunities for his or her operation.

ISAP’s resource suggests three steps for farmers to take in response to the information presented in the Biennial Report: Reflect, Learn, Act. Everyone has a role to play in protecting the quality of our waterways, streams, lakes, and drinking water across the state and achieving the NLRS goals. ISAP’s library of resources and programs like the Illinois Cover Crop On-Farm Network are available to farmers who are interested in learning more about how they can be part of the solution.

Farmers and farm advisors can view ISAP’s NLRS Overview here and are encouraged to share it with their networks.

On January 25, the University of Illinois Extension will be hosting the 2024 Illinois NLRS Partnership Conference. The morning session will focus on the 2023 Biennial Report, nutrient research, and monitoring. An afternoon Policy Working Group Meeting will focus on discussions about the Iowa NLRS Dashboard, the Great Lakes to Gulf Virtual Observatory Dashboard, strategy goals for 2025, and the NLRS working group structure. The public is encouraged to attend. Register here.


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ISAP Coordinator