Are Iowa's soil and water resources adequately protected?

Are Iowa's soil and water resources adequately protected?

Drake Agricultural Law Center to host conference on soil and water conservation policy.

The Drake University Agricultural Law Center, in cooperation with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, will host a two-day conference to explore soil and water conservation policy. The conference, titled "Sustaining Our Iowa Land (SOIL): The Past, Present and Future of Iowa's Soil and Water Conservation Policy," is Nov. 19-20 at the Olmsted Center at Drake University in Des Moines.

COST OF SOIL EROSION: ISU agronomy professor Rick Cruse has used soil samples, yield data from fields and other calculations to estimate that soil erosion is costing Iowans more than $1 billion of lost revenue every year. The calculations include lower crop yields due to thinning of topsoil.

According to Matt Russell, who works at Drake law center and is involved in helping with the event, the conference will bring together a wide range of individuals and organizations working to protect Iowa's soil and water. More than 40 speakers are scheduled to address issues such as: Are Iowa's soil and water resources adequately protected under state law? Are the soil conservation programs and institutions created over the last 70 years up to the challenge of protecting Iowa's soil?

How well are Iowa laws working to support conservation?
"Iowa has a long history of national leadership on soil conservation and stewardship," says Neil Hamilton, director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center and SOIL Conference organizer. "But there is growing concern our commitment to protecting soil and water resources has waned. Our goal is to help refocus our efforts and consider how well our laws are working to support conservation."

Many farm leaders in soil conservation will speak at the conference, including the president of the Iowa Soybean Association, the president of the Conservation Districts of Iowa, and the Iowa Conservation Farmer of the Year. The conference will also include a dinner and awards ceremony honoring individuals for their leadership as Stewards of Iowa's Land.

Many soil conservation leaders will speak at this conference
"Iowans in all walks of life share the state's bountiful natural resources, and a healthy discussion about how to best preserve and sustain those resources benefits all of us," says Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. "We are grateful that the Drake Agricultural Law Center is bringing together such a diverse, talented group of speakers to address the issues we face in preserving our beautiful land for future generations." Early bird registration (until Oct. 19) is $125 per person. General registration (after Oct. 19) is $150 per person. Registration includes all meals, snack breaks, and the awards ceremony and reception.

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Sponsors of the conference include: Wells Fargo; USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service-Iowa; USDA ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler and Hagen, PC; Peoples Company; Bob Riley and Feed Energy Company; Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation; Practical Farmers of Iowa; Iowa League of Cities; Soil and Water Conservation Society; Iowa Soybean Association; Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust; Iowa Water Center; and Women Food and Agriculture Network.

Founded in 1983, the Drake Agricultural Law Center is dedicated to providing opportunities to study how the legal system shapes our food system and influences the ability of the agricultural sector to produce, market and utilize agricultural products. To learn more about the SOIL Conference, registration and sponsorship visit the website.

What is the real cost of soil erosion for Iowa?
One of the speakers will be Rick Cruse, a professor of soil science at Iowa State University who is also director of the Iowa Water Center at ISU. Cruse has used soil samples, yield data from fields and other calculations to estimate that soil erosion is costing Iowans more than $1 billion of lost revenue every year. The calculations include lower crop yields due to thinning of the topsoil.

Save this date: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will hold a major Soil Health Conference February 2-3, 2016 at the Scheman Building on the ISU campus in Ames. Purpose of the conference is to increase your awareness and understanding of soil health. The event is for farmers, ag consultants, agronomists, Extension professionals, soil scientists and anyone interested in learning more about soils. It is sponsored by ISU Extension and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For registration information, visit [email protected]. Contact person is ISU Extension agronomist and soil management specialist Dr. Mahdi Al-Kaisi at [email protected]. Agenda for the conference is posted at register.extension.iastate.edu/soilhealth.

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