More funds available for innovative water quality projects

More funds available for innovative water quality projects

Iowa projects will focus on installing practices, delivery of information and demonstrating results.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced September 23 that funds are available for additional demonstration projects focused on expanding the use of innovative water quality practices. Projects should emphasize installing practices, innovative methods of delivery and demonstrating results to farmers.

Related: Cover Crops: Best Management Practices

COVER CROPS

"We continue to see strong interest from a wide variety of groups and organizations looking to work collaboratively with farmers and landowners to protect water quality.  Currently there are 29 collaborative, locally led projects from across that state bringing together over 100 individual partners, groups and businesses to advance water quality," Northey said. "This new funding will help continue the momentum and allow us to continue to engage farmers and encourage even greater adoption of practices focused on protecting water quality."

Projects are those called for in Nutrient Reduction Strategy
Funds are available through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative for proposals focused on practices identified in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy that have the greatest impact on reducing nutrient loss, such as bioreactors, saturated buffers, wetlands, buffer strips and cover crops. Projects are not limited to the nine priority watersheds identified by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council, but projects in those watersheds will receive preference in the application process, says Northey.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts, watershed groups and other non-governmental organizations are eligible to submit applications. Applicants will be able to seek up to three years of funding for a project, with the possibility of future extensions depending on funding availability and project performance. 

Deadline to apply is Nov. 13, information available online
The deadline to apply is November 13, 2015. Application guidance can be found on the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship website IowaAgriculture.gov under "Hot Topics" or can be requested by contacting the department's Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality at 515-281-5851.

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Earlier this year 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 will be matched by $2.59 million in funding from other sources. The projects chosen include those that will focus on expanding the use of cover crops, edge of field practices such as bioreactors and saturated buffers, and usage of water quality wetlands.

Related: Crop Rotation Best Practices: Design a More Effective Rotation

These projects will promote wider adoption of new practices
"Practices like bioreactors and saturated buffers have been documented to show significant and long lasting impact on reducing nutrient loss, but they are relatively new practices for use in Iowa," Northey says. "These projects will help build on our efforts to scale up the delivery of these practices and others in our state, to broaden adoption and recognition of important conservation technologies."

The announcement of the projects selected to receive funding is anticipated for early December, with January 1, 2016 as the scheduled project start date. More information is in the project application guidance at IowaAgriculture.gov under "Hot Topics."

Background on the 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. 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. State assistance is limited to 50% on any practice and must be matched by the farmer, landowner or other source.

Farmers this year have committed $3.5 million of their own money
Earlier this year Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.5 million in cost-share funds to install nutrient reduction practices. Farmers in each of Iowa's 99 counties are participating. 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 trying cover crops again who are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share. 

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.

Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects have also been funded in 2015. 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 on the initiative is at CleanWaterIowa.org.

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