Iowa Ag Secretary Requests $7.5 Million For Water Quality

Iowa Ag Secretary Requests $7.5 Million For Water Quality

State ag chief Bill Northey highlights conservation efforts in his budget meeting with Governor Branstad.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on Monday of this week requested $7.5 million for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in a public meeting with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds as part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017 budget requests. This request puts funding at the level of support sought for the soil conservation cost share program, or Iowa Financial Incentives Program (IFIP), over the next two years.

NEXT STEP: Bill Northey will work with governor and legislature to try to get funding he wants for soil conservation and water quality protection for fiscal 2016 and 2017. Last year, Iowa's $9.5 million investment in state cost-share programs generated $13 million in matching funds from farmers and landowners for conservation practices.

"The strong support from the Governor, Lt. Governor and Legislature for the Water Quality Initiative has been critically important to the exciting progress we have made.  This request is designed to allow us to continue to build on the initiative. Funding water quality and soil conservation efforts at equal levels will allow us to continue the exciting work taking place in both of these critically important programs," Northey said.

Increased funding would boost water quality improvement efforts
The ag department received $4.4 million for the current fiscal year for the Water Quality Initiative. The $7.5 million per year requested would allow the department to continue offering cost share statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices, expand work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, and develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in water quality efforts.

Northey also requested $7.5 million for conservation cost-share for each of the next two fiscal years. "For over four decades, Iowa's soil conservation cost-share program has encouraged the adoption of conservation structures and practices to protect and preserve our state's natural resources," he notes. "Last year alone, the state's $9.5 million investment generated $13 million in matching funds from Iowa farmers and land owners to support conservation practices."

Next step: work with governor and legislature to get funding
In the meeting with Branstad, Northey also requested $1.92 million in both fiscal 2016 and 2017 to support the closure of 17 additional agriculture drainage wells in the state.

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Of his meeting with Branstad and Reynolds on Monday, Northey said, "I appreciate the opportunity to outline this budget proposal for the Governor and Lt. Governor and I look forward to working with them and the Iowa Legislature to keep Iowa's conservation efforts moving forward."

Pre-applications being accepted for urban water quality projects
In other news released recently by Bill Northey, he announced the Iowa Department of Ag & Land Stewardship is requesting pre-applications for projects focused on improving water quality in urban areas. Projects should focus on conservation measures that capture and infiltrate stormwater and reduce a property's contribution to water quality degradation, stream flows and flooding and incorporate practices such bioretention cells, native landscaping, permeable pavement and soil quality restoration.

"This will expand our effort to work with communities, businesses and homeowners in our towns and cities to help install practices that allow water to infiltrate and not just runoff from our urban areas," Northey said.  "Our goal all along has been to engage all Iowans to help improve water quality in the state and this is a next step.  We have 13 demonstration projects underway that are working with farmers to implement and demonstrate water quality practices on our agricultural land and we are excited to expand our efforts in the urban areas as well."

Which groups are eligible to submit applications for funds?
Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), counties, county conservation boards, cities or other units of government, not-for-profit non-governmental organizations (NGO's) authorized by the secretary of state, public water supply utilities or watershed management authorities are eligible to submit applications.

Potential projects have until December 19, 2014 to submit a pre-application. Project pre-application guidance can be found on the state ag department's website under "Hot Topics" or can be requested by contacting the Department's Division of Soil Conservation at 515-281-5851.

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Preference points will be given to projects within the nine large priority watersheds that have been identified by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council (WRCC), significantly leverage non-state funding, and demonstrate ability for timely completion.  The nine priority watersheds are the Floyd, West Nishnabotna, East Nishnabotna, North Raccoon, Boone, South Skunk, Skunk, Middle Cedar and Turkey.

Submit pre-application for funding on or before Dec. 19
Projects will include concentrated efforts to demonstrate urban conservation practices paired with strong outreach/education components to disseminate information on these practices to promote increased awareness and adoption of available practices and technologies for achieving reductions in nutrient loads to surface waters. Successful projects will serve as local and regional hubs for demonstrating practices and providing practice information to homeowners, municipalities, businesses and local communities.

The maximum 3-page pre-application must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Pre-applications selected to submit a full application will be notified by January 23, 2015 and the full applications will be due on February 20, 2015.  Projects selected to receive funding will be announced in early March. More information can be found in the project pre-application guidance at www.IowaAgriculture.gov under "Hot Topics."

Northey created the Urban Conservation program in 2008 and it now has four urban conservationists who work to educate communities, businesses, developers and homeowners about practices that can be used in urban areas to reduce runoff. This is the first time cost share funding has been available through the Iowa Ag Department for urban conservation projects. The funding is available to help install and showcase water quality practices in urban areas.

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