Getting the ball rolling in the Elk Run Watershed

Getting the ball rolling in the Elk Run Watershed

Collaboration and partnerships are the keys to success in any agriculture initiative, but particularly when it comes to water quality. The Elk Run Water Quality Initiative (WQI) is just one example of how the partnership approach can spur positive action.

The project—encompassing parts of Sac, Calhoun and Carroll counties—was announced in March 2015 and brings together 16 partners across the state, including many of Iowa’s farmer-led associations. The project is led by the Agriculture Clean Water Alliance (ACWA)—a coalition of 12 ag retailers and industry businesses across the state. Diane Ercse, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) watershed coordinator working with ACWA, kicked off the project on Dec. 16 at an event in Breda.

“We have seen tremendous engagement and interest in the project so far,” Ercse said. “From farmers to project partners, people are excited to get involved. Nutrient reduction is not going to be completely resolved in a short time. We are looking at a long-term plan to target those areas of highest priority. This is just the beginning and the ball is starting to roll.”

Ercse presented the goals and opportunities of the project to more than 50 people at the kickoff event including many farmers, landowners and project stakeholders. The project will use both in-field and edge-of-field practices to reduce nutrient loss and targets the 45 percent reduction set out in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Northey Elk Run
Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey speaks to farmers at the Dec. 16 Elk Run Watershed project kickoff event in Breda.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey keynoted the kickoff meeting and offered encouragement to attendees.

“The first step is being here listening and thinking; then going home and talking over what needs to happen and what will work on your farm,” Northey said. “Find your way of getting started. Ercse is here to answer questions about cover crops, bioreactors and saturated buffers, and how to implement the practices.”

In addition to practices, Ercse also detailed other opportunities offered with the watershed project. Water monitoring is available through ISA and will help to measure improvements made on individual farms and the watershed as a whole. Local farmers also can enroll in ISA On-Farm Network® research trials to see how practices such as cover crops work on their farms.

Northey commended the efforts of famers and partners in the industry for being involved in the project and trying to find solutions.

“We are all in this to improve and are looking at what we can do differently to be better,” Northey said. “Imagine the creativity and innovation that is going to come from farmers, not the government, to improve water quality.”

The project, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, provides funds up to $713,000 across three years.

In addition to ACWA, project partners include ISA, Iowa Corn Growers, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance, Crop Production Services, Farmers Cooperative Company, West Central Cooperative, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Sac Soil and Water Conservation District, Carroll Soil and Water Conservation District, Calhoun Soil and Water Conservation District and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

For more information on the project, contact Diane Ercse at or (515) 334-1138.