Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey highlighted Soil and Water Conservation Week, which runs from April 30 to May 7. 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 Thursday, May 4 Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Northey will visit a farm in the Big Creek watershed where four saturated buffers were installed last fall and a bioreactor and oxbow restoration project will be built later this year. Branstad will also sign a proclamation recognizing April 30 – May 7 as Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week during the event. The farm is located at 2155 290th Street, Madrid.
On Wednesday, May 3, there will be a field day and ribbon cutting ceremony for a number of urban water quality projects that have been installed in Rockwell City. The projects, undertaken by the City, will capture stormwater and utilize innovative methods to remove contaminants and improve the quality of the runoff prior to its discharge into the storm sewer system. The events will start at 9 a.m. with a tour at Featherstone Park (large camping cabin on south end) and will also include a ribbon cutting for the downtown square improvement project at 11:30 a.m. at the Rockwell City Town Square.
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 “Healthy Soils are Full of Life.” 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. 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 $3.8 million in cost share funds to install nutrient reduction practices. 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.
There are also currently 57 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. More than 150 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $25.28 million dollars to go with over $16.09 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $340 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.