The Iowa Corn Growers Association along with the Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors Association are launching a unique private sector initiative to demonstrate technology-based soil conservation practice planning. The organizations made the announcement December 16.
The aim is to increase the adoption rate of soil and water conservation practices on Iowa farmland. Farmers are under pressure from environmental organizations pushing for stronger government regulations aimed at reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff from farm fields. In response, the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was introduced a year ago. It is being coordinated and carried out by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The nutrient reduction strategy recommends the use of various soil conservation practices and explains where each will work best. However, participation in the strategy by farmers and landowners is voluntary. And critics of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy say it won't work on a voluntary basis.
On the other hand, the state's soybean and corn grower organizations maintain that voluntary, rather than regulatory, is indeed the best approach to take to get more conservation practices on the land.
"What we currently use in the public sector for conservation technical assistance isn't keeping up with the challenges we face today," says Roger Zylstra, a farmer from central Iowa and president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association. "We can do a better job of saving soil and protecting water quality; and through technology, we can accelerate our adoption rate and have better and wider farmer support of Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy."
Subsidized conservation planning assistance for farmers in five priority watersheds
A key part of what the Iowa Conservation Action Network or IACAN will be offering is subsidized conservation planning assistance to ICGA and ISA farmer members for a limited time in five priority watersheds: Floyd, Turkey, Middle Cedar and the East and West Nishnabotna. Members in these watersheds can call, email or attend meetings to get planning assistance for grassed waterways, wetlands, ponds, sediment basins and soil loss assessments.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"This project is a great opportunity for ISA and ICGA members in these watersheds to receive conservation planning assistance," according to Brian Kemp, Iowa Soybean Association president and a farmer from Sibley in northwest Iowa. "ISA is committed to helping Iowa farmers engage in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, and this project is a great opportunity to test some cutting edge tools."
Use this conservation practice planning software to reduce time it takes to plan the practices
The planning assistance relies on a suite of conservation practice planning software programs developed by an Iowa-based small-business, Agren at Carroll, Iowa. The Agren software uses aerial imagery and high resolution elevation data to reduce the time it takes to plan soil conservation practices from weeks to just minutes. Using technology such as this to improve production has been central to agriculture.
Chairman of Iowa LICA, Tim Recker, says "By combining resources, we have the capacity to make a significant and long-term impact on conservation delivery in Iowa. Furthermore, as representatives of farm and earth-moving businesses in Iowa, we aim to preserve the livelihoods of our member businesses."
IACAN focuses on engaging the private sector in conservation planning "to help our corn and soybean association member-farmers achieve the goals called for in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy," says Zylstra. For more information visit the IACAN website.