This summer, thousands of Iowans will be swimming, fishing, and boating in and on our lakes and rivers. Those recreational opportunities are even better with clean water.
Over the past two years, the Legislature has provided millions of dollars to help improve Iowa’s water quality through the state’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy was prepared by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. More information can be found at http://www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu/.
As of last week, in less than five business days, the $1.4 million in cost share funds made available statewide by IDALS to help farmers install new nutrient reduction practices have been obligated. The practices that were eligible for this funding were cover crops, no-till or strip till, or using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer.
These Iowa farmers also committed to match the state’s investment for a total of $2.8 million in new water quality practices. Last year, the available funding was committed in 12 days, which shows that Iowans want to have clean water.
IDALS received applications covering 59,883 acres from 597 different farmers seeking to participate in the program. That includes 54,679 acres of cover crops, 2,531 acres of nitrification inhibitor, 1,656 acres of no-till and 1,015 acres of strip-till. Farmers in 90 of 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state received funding.
The Legislature appropriated this funding for these grants. Unfortunately, Governor Branstad vetoed the additional $10 million the Legislature provided for grants to Iowans to improve Iowa’s water quality. Even Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said through a statement that he was very disappointed by the Governor’s decision to veto the money, calling it a lost opportunity to do even more to build on the exciting momentum we are seeing around the Iowa water quality initiative.
Other water quality programs funded by the Legislature include the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, volunteer water quality initiatives, lakes restoration, water quality monitoring stations, wetland incentives, water protection programs, conservation reserve program, closing agricultural drainage wells, and farm demonstrations to prove the effectiveness of emerging practices in agronomy that protect water resources and provide other environmental benefits.