As calendar year 2012 comes to a close, it's time for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to present his agency's proposed budget for the next fiscal year. That would be for fiscal year 2014. The state of Iowa begins its fiscal year on July 1 each year, so fiscal 2013, which is the current fiscal year, began July 1, 2012.
On December 6 Northey requested $2.4 million in state funding for an agriculture water quality initiative in a public meeting with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds as part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's fiscal year 2014 budget request. Northey also proposes an additional $4.4 million in state funding for water quality practices in fiscal 2015.
Funding is needed to help get started carrying out the Iowa Nutrient Reduction plan
"I understand that the state budget remains very tight and the Governor and Legislature have a lot of tough decisions to make and I hope they will give this request strong consideration," Northey said. "The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and this agriculture water quality initiative will help keep Iowa as a national leader in improving water quality. This funding request if it is granted will help Iowa farmers and landowners get started in the statewide effort to carry out the practices and meet the goals outlined in the Iowa nutrient reduction plan."
The plan was released November 19 by Gov. Branstad and is designed to help reduce the amount of nitrate and phosphorus runoff from farm fields in Iowa. The nutrients are entering streams and rivers in Iowa and other Midwest states and flowing down the Mississippi River, thus contributing to the hypoxic area of water known as the "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. The hypoxia area doesn't support aquatic life and the Gulf of Mexico is the U.S.'s largest commercial fishing and shrimping area.
Increased funding would be used to provide incentives and education to improve water quality
The state ag department's agriculture water quality initiative request for fiscal 2014 would provide $575,000 for marketing and outreach, $1,675,000 for water quality initiative cost-share with farmers and landowners and $150,000 for increased staffing.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
The marketing and outreach funds would allow the department to strategically collaborate with farm groups, environmental groups, the Water Resources Coordinating Council, or WRCC, the Watershed Planning Advisory Council, or WPAC, and other stakeholders to promote soil and water conservation practices and get more of those practices in place on farm land. This would include statewide outreach through farmer-to -farmer interactions and broad-based communications to help educate farmers and encourage participation in voluntary water quality initiatives.
Water-quality initiative will provide cost-share funding to be matched by farmers or landowners
The water quality initiative cost-share will focus on providing funds that will be matched by farmers or landowners to implement practices that are identified as being the most effective in nutrient reduction and improving water quality, says Northey. The targeted scientifically-based practices include proper nutrient application, conservation tillage, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program wetlands, bioreactors, no-till, cover crops, buffers and drainage water management. Targeted watersheds will be identified to implement these practices and further evaluate their effectiveness.
"I appreciate the opportunity to outline this proposal for the Governor and the Lt. Governor and I look forward to working with them and the Iowa Legislature to keep moving Iowa's water quality efforts forward," Northey said.
Apart from the agriculture water quality initiative the department requested a status quo budget that covers negotiated increases in personnel and benefit costs for employees. Northey also requested that funding for the agriculture drainage well closure program be maintained, which will allow the Iowa ag department to finish closing 12 wells and bring the total number of closed wells to 262.
Last week the Iowa Corn Growers Association announced that it supports IDALS' Nutrient Reduction Strategy proposal and supports as much funding as possible for IDALS to implement the plan. The Iowa Soybean Association president and the Iowa Farm Bureau president also said they support the plan. Click here for more information on the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Click here for more information on the IDALS budget request.