Two agribusinesses and two certified crop advisers are recipients of Iowa Ag Leader Awards for outstanding leadership in improving Iowa’s water quality.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey recently presented the awards to Farmers Cooperative Society from Sioux Center, CF Industries, and CCAs Jason Gomes owner of North Iowa Agronomy Partners in Waverly and Joe Lally from Denison.
“Businesses like Farmers Co-op Society and CF Industries, as well as certified crop advisers like Jason Gomes and Joe Lally have shown real leadership in advancing water quality efforts in our state,” Northey said. “All of the award winners are examples of how stakeholders across agriculture are taking on the challenge of improving water quality by providing tools and information to help farmers and landowners make improvements on their farm.”
Northey presented the awards at the Agribusiness Association of Iowa’s Showcase and Conference in mid-February at the Iowa state fairgrounds in Des Moines.
• Jason Gomes, CCA, Waverly. Gomes is owner of North Iowa Agronomy Partners LLC and has operated as an independent agronomist since 2009.
Growing up in northeast Iowa, he has worked in agriculture since he was a teenager. His business provides a range of services to farmers and ag retailers, including crop scouting, soil sampling and data management. He has been a technical service provider with the Natural Resources Conservation Service since 2008 and has been a CCA since 2006. North Iowa Agronomy Partners works in the Middle and Upper Cedar watersheds, developing conservation plans and providing technical assistance in support of Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy.
Gomes believes water quality and soil quality are two sides of the same coin, and improving soil health is key to improving water quality regionwide. He sees water quality as an opportunity for farmers, rather than a burden, and is interested in solutions that incentivize ecosystem services like soil health, water quality and sustainable production.
His company works with farmers and landowners to help them balance the short-term challenges of crop production with their long-term conservation goals. He says he is grateful to work with so many innovative producers who are leading the way in demonstrating that continued improvements in production and improved environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive.
• Joe Lally, CCA, Denison. Lally’s conservation ethic was developed early as he grew up on a small dairy and hog farm in near Denison in western Iowa. His father bought the farm in 1956. By the time Lally left for the Army in 1968, they had installed terraces, grass waterways and a five-year crop rotation, among other practices, building a successful small farming operation. Lally bought his first farm in the Denison area in 1977. Within five years, he had installed terraces, grass waterways, headlands and minimum-tillage farming practices. This was one of the first farms in the area with tile placed in the sediment control structures. (Lally refers to them as doodle-dams.)
Lally received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Iowa State University and his CCA certification in 2008. He believes this certification, along with that as a technical service provider in 2003, gives a level of confidence when providing farmers consultation and planning for their farms. Lally is one of two Technical Service Providers who offer conservation and nutrient management plans developed under the guidance of NRCS and EPA.
He has written over 500 plans since 1990. His other roles have included environmental management services at Farmland Foods and project coordinator for the Heartland Water Quality Program. The Heartland four-state initiative provides education and training to land-grant educators, ag agency staff, EPA staff and nongovernmental organizations.
• Farmers Cooperative Society, Sioux Center. FCS is a 100% farmer-owned co-op that operates in northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota and southeast South Dakota. The mission of FCS is focused around a “High Road to High Yields” core strategy, which is leading with sustainable agronomic, economic and environmentally advanced technology solutions.
WINNING TEAM: The staff at Farmers Co-op Society in Sioux Center was recognized with a 2018 Ag Leader Award for outstanding leadership in improving Iowa’s water quality. Secretary Bill Northey (center) presented the award.
This commitment directly helps customers by maximizing nutrient efficiency and minimizing wasted input losses resulting in improved return on investment. This proactive approach also prepares both FCS and its customers for the future.
FCS is a leading partner in the West Branch of the Floyd River Water Quality Initiative project in Sioux County and has had representatives on the project’s advisory board since the project began in 2014. The co-op has hosted a number field events and meetings in support of the WQI project’s soil conservation, nutrient management and water quality improvement goals. FCS has helped promote project cost-share opportunities in newsletters and client communications.
FCS has also committed resources to help provide solutions for farmers including tools such as the N-Tensification nitrogen report card, custom cover crop drilling, custom spinner and Hagie sidedress application options.
FCS promotes the use of nitrogen stabilizers such as N-Serve/Instinct and ESN coated urea, and the use of no-till, grid soil sampling and variable-rate applications, along with nutrient management planning and manure sampling. FCS employs a staff of agronomists as CCAs, with specialty certifications in 4R and sustainability and is a 4R fertilizer dealer.
The FCS agronomy staff has been key in helping support these conservation efforts, aligned with the farmers’ operational and economic goals. FCS continues to collaborate with the project and farmers locally by providing professional knowledge, guidance based on experience and leadership to help advance common conservation goals.
• CF Industries. As a global leader in production of nitrogen-based fertilizers, CF Industries understands the importance of feeding the world in a sustainable manner. In Iowa, CF recently invested over $2.5 billion to expand its Port Neal Nitrogen Complex along the Missouri River in northwest Iowa. That facility sources much of the nitrogen applied across the state. CF is proud of its Iowa roots and its work to preserve the state’s soil through the 4R Plus campaign.
CF launched the 4R Plus campaign, collaborating with The Nature Conservancy to enhance years of efforts by Iowa’s farmers to implement sound nutrient management and conservation practices. The 4R Plus campaign is designed to increase awareness and understanding of 4R nutrient stewardship (applying the right nutrient source at the right time, right rate, right place) and conservation practices to increase productivity, retain soil and nutrients, build soil health, and improve water quality in Iowa.
CF believes using precise 4R nutrient stewardship and targeted conservation practices is critical to achieve healthier soils and productive crops, now and for future generations. CF further believes the 4R Plus principles are critical to meeting the nonpoint goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
CF officials say their company looks forward to continuing to support Iowa’s growers by helping to provide the resources they need to boost crop yields and profitability while simultaneously improving their soil’s health.