The Iowa Farm Bureau has joined Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey in urging Governor Terry Branstad to sign a bill that provides for soil and water conservation programs, as part of a one-time spending bill that amounts to $140 million for a number of state programs. The legislation includes $60 million in debt reduction and $28 million for building projects at the state universities, among other initiatives. The bill contains $11.2 million in conservation funding.
Farm Bureau issued a press release on Wednesday saying: "A commitment to these important conservation programs will leverage private funds and are ideal areas to invest in Iowa's water quality and soil conservation so improvements can continue to be achieved." Farm Bureau said the one-time investments also "are vital to expedite conservation work. Historically, these programs are not adequately funded, and in recent years, high farmer participation has created a backlog of unfunded projects."
Branstad has said the bill could threaten the state's ability to pay for other priorities—including education and property tax reform passed in 2013—in future years. "I want to make sure the resources are there to pay for that," the governor said.
Northey also urging Iowans to contact governor about this bill
The bill passed the Iowa House of Representatives in the recent 2014 session by a vote of 97 to zero, and passed the Iowa Senate 26 to 22. Branstad has authority to veto the entire bill or individual line items in the bill. He has until June 2 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.
"Vetoing this funding would give ammunition to the critics that Iowa isn't serious about improving water quality and a veto would undermine progress the state has made," says Northey, co-chairman of the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. Northey is urging Iowans to contact the governor to support the bill by calling 515-281-5211 or submitting comments online.
"I appreciate the Iowa Legislature's effort to make soil conservation and water quality spending a priority. Like a family or business, when you have funds left over it is wise to pay down debt and invest in priorities and that is what the legislature did. I ask for the governor and lieutenant governor to continue their strong support for our conservation and water quality efforts and sign the funding into law," says Northey.
Bill provides $11.2 million for soil and water conservation efforts
The bill, SF2363, if signed would provide $3.5 million in one-time funding specifically for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative and would be used to continue to encourage the broad adoption of water quality practices through statewide cost share assistance as well as more intensive work in targeted watersheds. The bill also includes $5 million to help address the backlog of state soil conservation cost-share projects. All funds would be matched by the landowner to support construction of conservation practices. Also, there is $1.2 million in the bill which would support the closure of eight ag drainage wells and $1.5 million would be provided to the Watershed Improvement Review Board.
"I encourage Iowans to contact the governor and lieutenant governor today and express your support for this funding," Northey says. "As governor Branstad has said repeatedly, agriculture has been the strength of our state's economy in recent years and this funding would help make sure it remains strong."
Vetoing this bill would give ammunition to Iowa program's critics
Northey adds, "I just returned from the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force meeting last week and what I heard and learned at that meeting confirmed again that Iowa is a national leader in using science-based, voluntary conservation practices to improve water quality. Vetoing this funding would give ammunition to the critics who say Iowa isn't serious about improving water quality. Vetoing this bill would undermine the exciting progress we have made in controlling soil erosion and improving water quality in Iowa."
The Farm Bureau press release points out that a record number of Iowa farmers are voluntarily implementing new soil and water conservation practices and technologies.
Farm Bureau urges Branstad's continued support of programs
The release says the Iowa Farm Bureau: "….requests Governor Branstad's continued leadership and support advancing Iowa's water quality and soil conservation efforts as farmers across the state implement new production practices and technologies to continually improve their conservation efforts. In addition to improving water quality and soil conservation, these one-time investments are vital to expedite conservation work.
"Historically, these programs are not adequately funded, and in recent years, high farmer participation has created a backlog of unfunded projects. Use of the legislature's one-time conservation funding will allow the implementation of new conservation measures on hundreds of farms around the state while facilitating continued improvement in water quality and soil health. IFBF commends Governor Branstad for his leadership in advancing Iowa's water quality and soil conservation efforts, and urges the state to continue to partner with farmers in advancing their conservation efforts."