Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey last week thanked Gov. Branstad and the Iowa Legislature for their continued commitment to partnering with farmers to make significant long-term progress in protecting Iowa's soil and water resources. The Governor signed into law $9.6 million to support the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in the new fiscal year.
"Iowans in both rural and urban areas continue to be engaged in efforts to improve water quality," notes Northey. "These funds will help as we work to continue to build and expand practices shown to protect water quality and monitor progress. Iowa is a model nationally for the progress that can be made on this important issue."
The Legislature provided $4.4 million for water quality in the Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriation bill (SF 494), which was signed into law on June 18. In addition, $5.2 million was included in the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF budget, HF 650) which was signed into law on July 2.
"Water Quality" added to name of conservation division
SF 494 also added "Water Quality" to the name of the Iowa Ag Department's Division of Soil Conservation to formalize the increased focus on the issue by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS) over the last several years.
The funds will allow IDALS to continue to offer cost-share funding statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices, continue work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, expand urban conservation efforts, and develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in improving water quality.
The appropriation for the department also includes $6.75 million for conservation cost share. For over four decades, Iowa's soil conservation cost share program has encouraged the adoption of conservation structures and practices to protect and preserve Iowa's natural resources and improve water quality.
Also, $1.92 million was also appropriated to support the closure of eight additional ag drainage wells in the state to protect groundwater quality.
In addition to the funds approved for IDALS for water quality, $1.35 million was provided to the Nutrient Research Center at Iowa State University to evaluate the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and help develop new practices. ISU also received a $1.23 million appropriation for a three-year pilot project to quantify infield activities focused on improving water quality. IDALS will also pass-through $450,000 to the ISU center for "nutrient water monitoring network technology and equipment."
Background on 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 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.
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.
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative is seeing some exciting results. Through this program alone, more than 1,600 farmers have invested $4.2 million to try a new practice on their farm to better protect water quality over the past two years.
Funds are currently available to farmers interested in using cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fertilizer. Any farmer not already using these practices will receive priority consideration for this cost-share assistance. Farmers can immediately submit applications through their local Soil and Water Conservation District office.
In addition, 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 funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.
Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have also been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding for these, and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million to support urban conservation efforts.
More information about the initiative can be found at CleanWaterIowa.org.