Iowa Water Quality Initiative continues to expand

Iowa Water Quality Initiative continues to expand

Iowa Department of Ag is requesting more money for water quality work in fiscal year beginning July 1

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey on January 28 highlighted the Iowa Water Quality Initiative 2016 Legislative Report during his presentation to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee at the State Capitol.

IMPROVE WATER QUALITY: About $325 million in state and federal funds were directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This doesn’t include the cost-share amount farmers pay to match state and federal programs; or funds used to build practices without government assistance.

“We continue to see more engagement by farmers and landowners and more investment in water quality efforts and it is exciting to see the progress that is being made,” says Northey. “Thanks to the support we’ve received from the governor and the legislature the Iowa Water Quality Initiative continues to expand and work with additional farmers. This report provides an update on the initiative to legislators and outlines our request for the next fiscal year.”

The Iowa Water Quality Initiative 2016 Legislative Report
The 8-page report released by Northey on January 28 provides an update on the $3.5 million made available for statewide cost-share for water quality practices and on the 29 demonstration projects that were operating across the state last year to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. 

The report also gives an update on Tracking/Accountability and efforts by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University. The Iowa DNR also provided an update on the efforts of point source nutrient reduction, and that update is included in the report.

Requests $10 million for Water Quality Initiative in fiscal 2017
During the hearing Northey also pointed out that the $10 million request for the Water Quality Initiative would allow the state ag department to continue offering cost share statewide to farmers who are trying new water quality practices, to expand work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, and to continue to develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in water quality efforts. The Iowa agriculture department received $9.6 million for the current fiscal year for the Water Quality Initiative. The 2017 fiscal year begins July 1 in Iowa.

A copy of the report can be found at www.IowaAgriculture.gov under “Hot Topics” or at http://www.cleanwateriowa.org/news-and-blog.aspx.

Background on the Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to Iowa waters. 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.

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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.

Farmers using cost-share pay 50% or more of their own money
The initiative is seeing some exciting results. Last fall Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.5 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. The practices that were eligible for this funding are cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer.

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. Farmers using cost-share funding contribute 50% or more of their own money to the total cost of the practice. 

Also, 32 demonstration projects are located across Iowa
In addition, 32 demonstration projects are now located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 9 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $16.72 million dollars to go with the $11.11 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. More information about the Iowa Water Quality Initiative can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.

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