The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August announced three grants totaling $3.15 million to fund Iowa-based projects to improve water quality, habitat and environmental education.
Recipients for the 2019 Farmer-to-Farmer Cooperative Agreements are:
Practical Farmers of Iowa. $935,788 for Roots for Water Quality: A Farmer-to-Farmer Model for a Sustainable Mississippi Basin
University of Iowa. $1,064,926 for Connecting Rural and Peri-urban Farmers to Demonstrate and Disseminate Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Practices
Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship. $1,150,000 for Effective, Targeted Wetland Installations to Maximize Nutrient Removal, Wetland Habitat Function, and Ultimately Expand Delivery
“These farmer-to-farmer grants will promote innovative, market-based solutions for monitoring and improving water quality throughout the Gulf of Mexico watershed,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The grants are a key part of our effort to support America’s farmers in a manner that strengthens both our agriculture and protection of our nation’s vital water resources.”
“Farmer-to-Farmer Cooperative Agreements directly support science and technology-based water quality initiatives needed to protect watersheds while also maintaining a vital ag economy,” says Jim Gulliford, EPA Region 7 administrator. “A combined $3.15 million in funding will support Iowa in restoration and installation of wetlands, as well as use of cover crops, to help provide water quality improvement to waterways across Iowa and downstream in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Training farmers to be mentors
“PFI is ready to increase use of cover crops in Iowa to tackle water quality issues,” says Sarah Carlson, PFI strategic initiatives director. “Through farmer-to-farmer learning, PFI has proven that cover crops are an essential tool to manage weeds and reduce soil erosion while improving water quality in a corn-soybean rotation. This EPA funding will allow us to create new tools, like a ‘ride-sharing’ app for farmers. Instead of looking for a ride, farmers will be able to use the app to find qualified cover crop applicators during the busy harvest season.”
PFI will equip Iowa farmers with tools to accelerate implementation of cover crops by shifting the tone of mainstream agriculture, doubling the number of cover crop champions, lowering barriers to implementation and measuring a 5% improvement in water quality. “More farmers will be trained to become cover crop champions, so they can educate and mentor other farmers,” she says.
Major water quality initiative
“The College of Engineering, Iowa Flood Center, and IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa are excited to partner with farmers and consumers in Johnson and Iowa counties to demonstrate innovative nutrient and sediment reduction practices in Iowa,” says Marty Scholtz, University of Iowa vice president for research. “This grant recognizes the university’s national leadership in water research. The $1.07 million from EPA will leverage watershed restoration funds from the $97 million Iowa Watershed Approach project to create measurable water quality improvements in stream segments within the Lower Iowa River watershed.”
“Working with the EPA and local communities, we are taking on the challenge of improving Iowa’s water quality by using conservation practices in priority watersheds,” says Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig. “Whether you live in the city or the country, we all have a role. These public-private partnerships and rural-urban projects are perfect examples of what we can accomplish when we all work together to achieve our common goal — preserving Iowa’s natural resources for the next generation.”
A ceremony honoring the Iowa recipients took place Aug. 14 at the Iowa State Fair. EPA anticipates awarding seven Gulf of Mexico Division cooperative agreements in 2019, totaling more than $7.5 million, to fund projects that improve water quality, habitat and environmental education in the Gulf of Mexico watershed.