Three Projects Focused on Expanding Use and Innovative Delivery of Water Quality Practices Receive Funding

DES MOINES –Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today announced that three projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices have been selected to receive $1.92 million in funding through the Iowa water quality initiative over the next three years.  In addition to the state funds, the three projects will provide over $2 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions.

“These new projects allow us to continue to expand the reach of the Iowa water quality initiative and continue to learn more about the best ways to get practices on the land.  These projects create a great opportunity to see these practices up close and better understand how they might work on their own farm,” Northey said.

All the projects will focus on expanding the use of conservation practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy as positively impacting water quality.  In addition, strong outreach components will help to share information on these practices and promote increased awareness and adoption of practices and technologies to reduce nutrient loads to surface waters.

The projects started on January 1.  Twenty partners from agriculture organizations, institutions of higher education, private industry, the local, state and federal government, and others, are working together on these projects.

Applications were requested in September and the Department received 11 proposals requesting more than $5.7 million in funding and included partner contributions of over $7.3 million.  All were reviewed by a committee including representatives from the Department and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.  The committee made recommendations that were used by the Department in selecting the projects to be funded.

“With these new projects we now have 32 demonstration projects in place all across the state.  We continue to be encouraged by how engaged farmers and landowners are, looking at new practices and considering how they fit into their operation.  As we start a new year we continue to encourage farmers to be involved in the effort and consider one additional thing they can do on their farm to help protect water quality,” Northey said. 

A short summary of each of the projects follows here.

Central Iowa Watershed Management Authority Water Quality Initiative Project
Grant award:
Total project: $465,500
Project leader: Polk Soil and Water Conservation District
Partners: Dallas Soil and Water Conservation District, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Metro Waste Authority, Walnut Creek WMA, Fourmile Creek WMA, Mud/Camp/Spring WMA, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Agricultural Water Alliance, Iowa Learning Farms, Practical Farmers of Iowa and Women Food and Agriculture Network
Project details: This project will engage three local Watershed Management Authorities (WMA) in demonstration projects focused on collaborative water quality efforts in urban and rural areas.  The primary nutrient reduction practices targeted for implementation include cover crops, bioreactors, saturated buffers, and wetlands.  The project will include education and outreach components and the targeting of conservation practice implementation based upon watershed management plans developed for each WMA.

Iowa Seed Corn Cover Crops Initiative
Grant award:
Total project: $1,900,560
Project leader: Iowa Seed Association
Partners: Agribusiness Association of Iowa, Iowa Corn, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Soil and Water Conservation Society Project details: The project seeks to focus on increasing adoption of cover crops on seed corn production acres in Iowa. The focus on seed corn production is largely driven by the unique opportunity for adoption of cover crops due to an earlier harvest, which provides better timing opportunities for establishment in the fall. The seed corn focus on cover crops is heavily driven by the industry, and their efforts will promote and support the use of cover crops as a valuable practice for reducing both nutrient losses along with other potential production benefits by addressing soil compaction, weed pressures and the lack of crop residue.

Taylor County Water Quality Initiative
Grant award: $611,705
Total project: $1,584,329
Project leader: Taylor Soil and Water Conservation District Partners: AgSolver, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Cattleman’s Association, Taylor County Cattlemen, Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
Project details:  This project will work with farmers in Taylor County by promoting alternative land management practices on farmed areas identified to be marginal or unprofitable. The project will work with producers on an individual basis to evaluate the specific production levels and goals within their farming operation by utilizing several tools to evaluate current farm scale profitability combined with conservation practice and land use alternatives. Rather than focus on the entire field, this project will demonstrate which areas of a field should be considered for alternative forms of production, thus making them more profitable and more sustainable.

Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology based approach to achieving a 45 percent 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.   The initiative is seeing some exciting results.  Last fall Northey announced that 1,800 farmers committed $3.5 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.  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 that are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced-rate of cost share.  Farmers using cost share funding contribute 50% or more to the total cost of the practice. 

In addition to these three new projects, 29 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices.  This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, 4 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 9 urban water quality demonstration projects.  More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects.  These partners will provide $16.72 million dollars to go with the $11.11 million in state funding going to these projects. 

More than $325 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.