Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced on May 11 the 2016 sign-up period is open for cost-share funds to help farmers install nutrient reduction practices. This program has been popular with farmers interested in adding additional practices to their operation. Practices eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fertilizer.
“We have seen significant growth in cover crops and other water quality focused practices in recent years, but many farmers are still exploring how they fit on their farm. This statewide program is designed to help them get started with a new practice and learn how they can use one or more of these tools to help protect water quality,” says Northey. “I encourage farmers to reach out to their local Soil and Water Conservation District office for more information on how to apply.”
Farmers can immediately start submitting applications
The cost-share rate for farmers planting cover crops is $25 per acre ($15 per acre for past cover crop users) and for farmers trying no-till or strip till the cost-share is $10 per acre. Farmers using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer can receive $3 per acre.
Farmers who have already used cover crops on their farm are eligible for a reduced rate of $15 per acre. First-time cover crop users will receive priority consideration for this assistance. Farmers are only 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.
“As farmers are busy planting, we wanted to get the announcement out as soon as possible so our staff and partners can prepare to sign-up interested farmers if there are rain delays or as field work is wrapped up,” says Northey.
Ask your local SWCD about other cost-share programs
Farmers are also encouraged to visit their local Soil and Water Conservation District office to inquire about additional opportunities for cost-share funding through other programs offered at their local SWCDs. A Soil and Water Conservation Districts directory can be found at IowaAgriculture.gov under “Hot Topics.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received $9.6 million for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in fiscal 2016. These funds appropriated by the Iowa Legislature will allow the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship 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.
In the last three years this program has been available, over 2,900 farmers in each of Iowa’s 99 counties have put in new nutrient reduction practices on over 294,000 acres. The state provided about $6.2 million in cost share funding to help farmers try a water quality practice and Iowa farmers provided more than $6.2 million of their own resources to support these water quality practices.
Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters, says Northey. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues.
The initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.
In addition to the statewide cost-share, there are also currently 45 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $19.31 million to go with over $12 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $325 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost-share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.