USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards $9.5 million for Midwest Agriculture water quality partnership

USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards $9.5 million for Midwest Agriculture water quality partnership

Project will leverage $4.75 million in state funding and $33 million from the private sector to expand water quality efforts

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Sean McMahon, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA), said today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has awarded $9.5 million to the Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership.

The partnership is co-led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and IAWA and involves 43 additional partners.

“This project will work with a diverse group of committed partners to engage farmers and help scale-up the water quality efforts in targeted watersheds,” said Northey. “By working with ag organizations, businesses, retailers and other partners, we are building on momentum at the local level to address nutrient losses at the watershed scale.  These funds will allow us to continue to engage the local agricultural community to deliver and demonstrate the technologies needed to improve water quality while protecting and maintaining Iowa’s tremendous agricultural productivity.”

The $9.5 million grant is the largest National Funding Pool award in the country this year. The funds will be leveraged with $4.75 million in state funding ($2.5 million from IDALS and $2.25 million from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources) and $33 million from the private sector. Farmers and landowners will be making additional investments that are not included in these amounts.

“This project will help Iowa farmers to simultaneously improve their profitability and environmental performance,” said McMahon. “This effort is a true public-private partnership that will leverage the resources of our agribusiness partners to help their farmer customers adopt practices that will improve water quality.”

The project will build an innovative public-private collaboration focused on improving water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species. The partnership has brought together diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors committed to improving water quality as guided by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The initiative is focused on engaging local partners such as agribusinesses, ag retailers, seed companies and ag organizations to deliver and demonstrate water quality practices and technologies proven to have a significant impact on reducing losses of nitrogen and phosphorus. These practices include cover crops, nutrient management, strip-till and no-till, drainage water management, bioreactors, saturated buffers and wetlands.

The project will merge traditional approaches to deliver conservation through scaling up conservation planning and conservation practices with a non-traditional, highly innovative precision agriculture platform integration component that will lead to greater practice adoption and improved conservation outcomes. The initiative will help leverage private sector precision agriculture tools to deliver conservation and water quality improvement.

The initiative will be focused in targeted watersheds within the North Raccoon, South Skunk, Lake Red Rock, Middle Cedar and Upper Cedar watersheds.

“This project will help direct conservation practices to where they can be most effective to maximize water quality benefits,” McMahon added. “We credit NRCS and USDA for recognizing the importance of targeting Farm Bill resources to priority watersheds and landscapes.

The full USDA RCPP announcement can be found here.