Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced August 28 that $3.5 million in conservation cost-share funds to help farmers install nutrient reduction practices have been obligated to farmers in the state's cost-share program over the past three years. Farmers in each of Iowa's 99 counties have participated and received funding in this program which began in 2013. Practices eligible for the funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer.
"Farmers continue to show they are willing to invest in practices focused on limiting nutrient loss and improving water quality," says Northey. "To consider that this program went from zero to more than 1,800 farmers over the past three years shows that farmers are committed to action and willing to invest in water quality."
Applications were received from more than 1,800 farmers
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received applications covering 187,000 acres from more than 1,800 different farmers seeking to participate in the program. Farmers in each of the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state received funding.
Participants include 980 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 830 past users who are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share. The first-time users cover 79,000 acres of cover crops, 7,450 acres of nitrification inhibitor, 7,150 acres of no-till and 3,950 acres of strip-till. The past users will use cover crops on nearly 89,500 acres.
Farmers not already using the practice were eligible for a cost share rate for cover crops of $25 per acre, $10 per acre for trying no-till or strip till and $3 per acre for using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Farmers that had used cover crops in the past were eligible for $15 per acre in cost share. Cost share was only available on up to 160 acres.
Farmers encouraged to ask about other programs available
While the available cost-share funding in this Iowa program for 2015 has been already used up by farmers who applied for it, there may be other programs, such as USDA programs, that can provide financial help for soil and water conservation practices. "Farmers are encouraged to still reach out to their local Soil and Water Conservation District office as there may be other programs available to help them implement water quality practices on their farm," says Northey.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship received $9.6 million for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in fiscal 2016. These funds 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.
Background information on the Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the state's Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters. The strategy brings together 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. State assistance is limited to 50% on any practice and must be matched by the farmer, landowner or other source.
Targeted watershed demonstration projects also funded
In addition to statewide cost share, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. The state has provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged an additional $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.
Four projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices beyond an individual watershed have also received funding. These projects will receive $3.06 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years and be matched by $2.59 million in funding from other sources.
Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have also been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million to support urban conservation efforts. More information about the Iowa Water Quality Initiative can be found at CleanWaterIowa.org.