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Awakening the Dead Zone

An investment for agriculture, water quality, and climate change

Compares a number of policy options to reduce nutrient loss in the Mississippi River Basin from agricultural sources, provide new income sources for farmers, and help address hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

Executive Summary

The Dead Zone is an hypoxic or oxygen-depleted zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is largely attributed to the loss of nitrogen from agricultural land in the Mississippi River Basin.

This report explores a number of policies available to the agricultural sector to reduce nutrients reaching the Gulf of Mexico. These nutrients, particularly nitrogen are the principle cause of hypoxic areas (or dead zones) in the Gulf. Using market-based mechanisms such as nutrient trading proved to be the most cost-effective policy approach to implement and also provided climate change and local water quality benefits.

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