Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced on Aug. 28 that $3.5 million in cost share funds to help farmers install nutrient reduction practices have been obligated to farmers from all 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 continue to show they are willing to invest in practices focused on limiting nutrient loss and improving water quality,” said Northey. “To consider that this program went from zero to more than 1,800 farmers over the past three years shows that farmers are committed to action and willing to invest in water quality.”
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship received applications covering 187,000 acres from more than 1,800 different farmers seeking to participate in the program. Farmers in each of the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state received funding.
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. The first-time users cover 79,000 acres of cover crops, 7,450 acres of nitrification inhibitor, 7,150 acres of no-till and 3,950- acres of strip-till. The past users will use cover crops on nearly 89,500 acres.
Farmers not already utilizing the practice were eligible for a cost-share rate for cover crops of $25 per acre, $10 per acre for trying no-till or strip till and $3 per acre for using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Farmers that had used cover crops in the past were eligible for $15 per acre in cost share. Cost share was only available on up to 160 acres.
Farmers are encouraged to still reach out to their local Soil and Water Conservation District office as there may be other programs available to help them implement water quality practices on their farm.
IDALS received $9.6 million for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in fiscal 2016. These funds will allow the ag department to continue to encourage the broad adoption of water quality practices through statewide cost share assistance, as well as more intensive work in targeted watersheds.
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 storm water 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. State assistance is limited to 50 percent on any practice and must be matched by the farmer, landowner or other source.
In addition to statewide cost share, 16 targeted Water Quality Initiative demonstration watershed projects have been funded to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. The state has provided $7.4 million in funding to support these projects and has leveraged an additional $11.7 million in additional funding from partners and landowners. More than 95 organizations are participating in these projects.
Four projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices beyond an individual watershed also have been funded. These projects will receive $3.06 million in funding through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative over the next three years and be matched by $2.59 million in funding from other sources.
Nine Urban Conservation Water Quality Initiative Demonstration Projects also have been funded. The state has awarded $655,194 in funding and partners and landowners participating in the projects will provide $2.43 million to support urban conservation efforts.
More information about the initiative can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.