The recently introduced Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is being strongly criticized by environmental groups because it is voluntary, not regulatory. But farmers are indeed responding and are voluntarily putting more conservation measures on the land to improve water quality. In fact, the demand for state cost-share funding for conservation practices is so strong that Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week announced an additional $1 million is being made available in cost-share funds for practices installed this fall. The cost-share money is ear-marked to help farmers pay for planting cover crops, using no-till or strip till or nitrification inhibitor use.
"This additional $1 million is being made available to help farmers implement nutrient reduction practices," noted Northey, on August 22. "Farmers have already submitted applications for the initial $1.8 million in funding that was made available on August 8 for water quality practices." Interest in establishing cover crops this summer and fall is especially strong.
Overwhelming response shows farmers are committed to protecting water quality
"We are extremely pleased by the overwhelming response we have received from farmers and we believe this shows their commitment to protecting and improving water quality," Northey said. "Farmers are matching all these funds, so they are putting up at least $1.8 million of their own money to implement these voluntary, science-based practices to protect water quality."
The practices that are eligible for this funding are the establishment of cover crops, the use of no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fertilizer. Any farmer not already using these practices can apply for this cost-share assistance. Farmers are only eligible for cost-share on up to 160 acres.
The cost share rate for farmers planting cover crops is $25 per acre and for farmers trying no-till or strip till is $10 per acre. Farmers using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer can receive $3 per acre. Farmers can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office to apply.
Cost-share requests are running strongest for funding to help establish cover crops
To date, more than 700 farmers in 85 of the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Iowa have applied to participate in the program. Farmers have submitted applications for 71,023 acres of cover crops, to use nitrification inhibitor on 4,019 acres, 770 acres of no-till and 466 acres of strip till.
Thanks to an appropriation from the 2013 Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship received $3 million in one-time funding to support statewide science-based water quality practices over the next five years. After the August 22 announcement the department will have made $2.8 million available to support these practices this fall.