Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced May 12 a new round of funding is available to help farmers install and use nutrient reduction practices in 2015. Practices eligible for this state cost-share funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying nitrogen fertilizer.
The cost-share rate for first-time users of cover crops is $25 per acre, no-till or strip till are eligible for $10 per acre and farmers using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall nitrogen fertilizer can receive $3 per acre. Any farmer not already using these practices will receive priority consideration for this assistance. Farmers who have used cover crops in the past may be eligible for $15 per acre for cover crops.
"We continue to hear from farmers interested in doing even more to limit nutrient loss and better protect water quality. These funds will help them try new voluntary science-based conservation practices on their farm," Northey says.
Farmers encouraged to submit applications for funding now
Farmers are eligible for cost-share on up to 160 acres. The funds will be made available in July, but farmers can immediately start submitting applications through their local Soil and Water Conservation District office. Farmers are also encouraged to visit their local SWCD office to inquire about additional opportunities for cost-share funding through other programs, either USDA funding or state funding.
"Farmers are busy planting this spring. But we want to get this announcement out now so our staff and partners such as USDA Farm Service Agency and NRCS can prepare to sign-up interested farmers. If there are rain delays in planting or as fieldwork wraps up this spring, farmers will have time to go to the local office, ask questions about cost-share programs available and get their application in," Northey adds.
This money comes from Iowa Water Quality Initiative for 2015
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship received $4.4 million from the Iowa Legislature for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative for fiscal 2015. These funds will allow the department to continue to encourage broad adoption of water quality practices through statewide cost-share assistance as well as encouraging landowners and farmers to do more intensive work in targeted watersheds.
In the past two years this state cost-share program has been available, over 1,400 farmers have put in new nutrient reduction practices on over 144,000 acres. The state provided about $3.4 million in cost-share funding to help farmers try a water quality practice for the first time and Iowa farmers provided at least another $3.4 million of their own money in matching dollars to support these water quality practices.
Helping farmers install nutrient reduction practices
The 2015 program is similar to the state program available the past two years. It's a "cover-crop plus other practices" strategy. It offers cost-share for not only cover crops, but also strip till, no-till or use of nitrification inhibitor if you apply nitrogen in fall.
Go to your county office now and ask questions, get your name on the list and find out about the program ahead of time, says Northey. The past two years the cost-share funding ran out in a few days as farmers rushed to apply as soon as funding was available. "We'll start to disperse funds July 1 this year," he explains. "Like last year, it's $25 an acre for first-time cover crop users and $15 an acre for farmers who've had a cover crop before. First-time cover crop users get priority. How many farmers who have already planted cover crops will be able to get the $15 an acre? It depends on how much money we have left after the first-time cover crop farmers sign up."
Program has been changed to allow more farmers to enroll
The past two years, only first-time users of these practices were eligible for cost-share. "This year we think we'll have some dollars left for folks who've already had cover crops, but who would like to get some cost-share help to establish more cover crop acres on their farms," says Northey.
It costs money to establish covers and you don't get a cash crop harvest from them like you do corn and soybeans. But you may be able to use cover crops as feed for livestock, which helps provide some return. Likewise it costs money to buy a new planter or modify an existing planter to switch to no-till or strip till. "However, cover crops and no-till or strip till can create better efficiency of farming and fertilizer use," notes Northey. "Whether the increased interest in using these practices is being driven by conservation purposes or better efficiency or a desire for both, we are still seeing more farmers aggressively adopting conservation practices, even in these times of low corn and bean prices and tight margins."