Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is an opportunity to recognize the important conservation practices placed on Iowa's landscape and bring attention to the ongoing work by farmers, landowners and urban residents to protect the state's soil and water resources. On Wednesday, April 22 Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation recognizing April 26 to May 3 as Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week on the Puetz farm in Plymouth County.
"Soil and Water Conservation Week is a great opportunity to highlight the efforts all Iowans can do on their property, whether in town or on the farm, to prevent soil erosion and protect water quality in Iowa," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "It is vital that we preserve these resources that help make Iowa agriculture so productive and such a key driver of our state's economy."
Urban and ag interests working together to improve water quality
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is held in coordination with the national Stewardship Week, sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. This year's Stewardship Week theme is "Local Heroes: Your Hardworking Pollinators." Outreach activities and events will be held throughout the week.
Officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will participate in a pollinator "Lunch and Learn" at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines on Wednesday, April 29. An urban conservation tour in Calhoun County will be held Thursday, April 30. This event will showcase urban and ag interests working together to improve water quality.
A wide variety of additional outreach activities and events will be held throughout the week. To see full details of these and all events being held this week in Iowa, visit iowaagriculture.gov/conservationweek.asp.
Iowa has a number of conservation partners collaborating
During the "Dust Bowl" years of the 1930s, the first efforts to prevent soil erosion were developed. In 1939, Iowa passed a law establishing a state agency and the means for soil and water conservation districts to organize. Over 70 years later, the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state are hosting a variety of events to highlight the conservation work being done across the state.
The Iowa Ag Department's Division of Soil Conservation provides leadership in the protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources. The Division of Soil and Water Conservation also works with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and private farmers and landowners to meet their agricultural and environmental protection needs, in both rural and urban landscapes. The state ag department's conservation partners include USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Iowa State University, and many others.
Iowa Water Quality Initiative is producing exciting results
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. "The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our waters," says Northey. "It is a voluntary program."
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative is seeing some exciting results. 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. 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 additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects. Visit CleanWaterIowa.org to learn more about voluntary, science-based practices.
Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa is serving his third term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as the state's Secretary of Agriculture are promoting the use of science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and reaching out to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.