Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced on April 18 that the State Soil Conservation Committee Research and Demonstration Fund has financial assistance available to support research or education/demonstration projects that explore sustainable agriculture and projects focused on reducing nonpoint pollution. Funds are available to collaborative teams of scientists, farmers, institutions, soil and water conservation districts and educators.
Applications must be submitted to the State Soil Conservation Committee, based at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, by May 23, 2014 and funding decisions will be made in May with a July 1, 2014 projected start date.
"These funds are designed to help generate new techniques and soil and water conservation practices that can help landowners as they continue their work to better protect our soil and water," Northey says. "Landowners have many conservation tools available and this program is designed to help generate even more practices to reduce erosion and protect water quality."
Projects must address nonpoint pollution control
There are two suggested priority areas, but proposals do not need to be limited to those and diverse projects are welcome. Proposals must address issues of nonpoint pollution control. Successful projects should be focused on sustaining and improving environmental quality or the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. Applications should also explain how the projects would enhance the quality of life for farmers, rural communities, and society as a whole.
Proposals should clearly explain expected outcomes for the project and how they will assist in working toward these objectives, how project outcomes will be evaluated, and the impact of projects. "We are looking for projects that make a contribution to the greater good and help us continue towards our goal of better soil and water protection," says Jean Eells, a member of the State Soil Conservation Committee.
For conservation research and demonstration projects
Funding level for the grant program is established by the State Soil Conservation Committee and it is anticipated that $500,000 will be available this year. Individual grants cannot exceed $75,000 total over a two-year period.
More information about applying for assistance can be found at www.iowaagriculture.gov and then click on "Conservation" at the top of the page. Interested applicants can also contact Tarrita Spicer with the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship at 515-281-5851 or [email protected].
Farmers are engaged in Iowa Water Quality Initiative
Northey also released the following statement last week, telling about the progress of Iowa's on-going Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.
More acres in cover crops: Many Iowa farm fields are turning green earlier than normal this spring as a rapidly growing number of farmers are using cover crops to help better protect the soil and water they depend on to make their living. Farmers are always looking for new and better ways to raise crops and livestock, and the planting of cover crops is a promising tool that is starting to catch on as way to prevent erosion, improve soil health and limit nutrient loss.
The Iowa nutrient reduction strategy was finalized last spring and thanks to the strong support from Gov. Branstad and the Iowa Legislature, the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship received $22.4 million in funding to support water quality and conservation work across the state.
The state ag department has worked with farmers for decades to help them install practices designed to prevent erosion and keep our precious soils in place. These additional funds have helped jumpstart our efforts focused on water quality. We have had a dual focus of encouraging broad adoption through statewide cost share assistance as well as more intensive work in targeted watersheds.
Nutrient Reduction Strategy: We have been extremely pleased by the enthusiastic response from Iowa farmers who are interested in learning more about these practices and starting to use them on their farm.
Last fall, in just two weeks, over 1,000 farmers signed up for cost share funding to help implement new nutrient reduction practices on their farm. It's notable that $2.8 million was available to help farmers try a water quality practice for the first time with Iowa farmers providing at least another $2.8 million.
Watershed demonstration projects: Also, eight watershed demonstration projects were selected and are starting to work within the large priority watersheds identified by the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council. These projects will receive $4.1 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, the eight projects will provide over $8 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts.
We have received eight applications for the next round of funding for watershed demonstration projects and will announce the recipients this spring so they will be able to work with farmers yet this growing season.
Iowa is on the right path: This winter and spring hundreds of farmers attended dozens of information sessions to discuss cover crops and other practices that help protect water quality. During the Iowa Power Farming Show in January, 44 workshops focused on cover crops were attended by more than 1,000 farmers. Nearly half of those farmers had never used cover crops before but were investing their time to learn more.
This important work is making a difference. The Cedar Rapids Gazette last month reported "Recent analyses show declining trendlines for nitrates in both the Raccoon and Iowa rivers, and a third analysis shows declines in both nitrates and phosphorus in the Upper Iowa River." You can read more here.
"We still have a long way to go and a lot of work is still to be done," sums up Northey. "But we are on the right path. Iowa is a national leader in agriculture and is also leading the way in using voluntary, science-based practices to improve water quality."