Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today highlighted Soil and Water Conservation Week, which runs from April 24 to May 1. The 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.
“Iowans in our towns and on our farms continue to engage in water quality and soil conservation efforts. This week is an opportunity to celebrate all the work that has been done and highlight the efforts currently underway to prevent erosion and improve water quality,” Northey said. “It is vital that we preserve the soil and water resources that help make Iowa agriculture so productive and such a key driver of our state’s economy.”
On Monday, April 25 Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds will visit Iowa State University to receive updates on the work being done by the Nutrient Research Center at the University. Branstad will also sign a proclamation recognizing April 24 – May 1 as Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week during the event, which will be held at the University’s cover crop research site at southwest corner highway 30 and V Ave near Ames.
On Wednesday, April 27 Branstad will receive an update on the Benton/Tama and Miller Creek Iowa Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects and tour water quality practices installed as part of the projects. The event will be held at the John Weber farm, 3213 Hwy 8, Dysart. Branstad will then visit a site of a tree planting on the Jim and Jody Kerns farm just south of Edgewood, Iowa in Delaware County. Kerns is the Tree Farming and Forestry representative on the State Soil Conservation Committee. The farm is located on County Road C7X approximately ½ mile east of Hwy 3.
On Thursday, April 28 Secretary Northey will visit Storm Lake to receive an update on the water quality activities underway in the community. Northey will participate in a groundbreaking at a new Water Quality Initiative Urban project the city is undertaking to convert old lime lagoons into stormwater treatment wetlands. Northey will also attend a tree planting by Storm Like High School students at a recently completed stormwater wetland.
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is in coordination with the National Stewardship Week, sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. This year’s Stewardship Week theme is “We all need Trees.” More information about the activities that will be held during Soil and Water Conservation Week in Iowa can be found at www.iowaagriculture.gov/conservationweek.asp.
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 Department’s Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality provides leadership in the protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources. The Division 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 Department’s conservation partners include USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Iowa State University, Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI) and many others.
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.
As part of the initiative, last fall 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. Farmers using cost share funding contribute 50% or more to the total cost of the practice.
There are also currently 45 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 16 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 22 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 100 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $19.31 million dollars to go with over $12 million in state funding going to these projects.
Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, is serving his third term as Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities as 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.