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Serving: IA
Cover crops growing in a field Farm Progress
APPLY NOW: If you are interested in participating in the Iowa cost-share program for cover crops or other conservation practices, sign up early to ensure you are on the list.

Sign-up now open for water quality cost-share

Iowa farmers and landowners can apply for cost-share funding to put water quality practices on the land.

Farmers and landowners can sign up for cost-share funds through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. The program is opened for sign-up in May each year, and the funds can be used to help install conservation practices to improve soil health and water quality. Eligible practices include cover crops, no-till and strip till, or use of a nitrification inhibitor.

“During these unprecedented times when so many aspects of our lives have been disrupted by COVID-19, the conservation work has continued. There are more farmers and landowners engaged than ever before,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “If you’ve never tried cover crops or no-till or strip till, now is the time to get started. The state’s cost-share program will cover some of the initial costs, and we have local staff and resources to help you integrate conservation practices into your farming operation.”

Farmers planting cover crops for the first time are eligible for $25 per acre through the cost-share funding. Farmers who have already experienced benefits of using cover crops and are continuing the practice can receive $15 per acre. Growers using no-till or strip till for the first time to reduce soil erosion and input costs are eligible for $10 per acre. Farmers using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor to apply fall nitrogen fertilizer are eligible for $3 per acre.

160-acre limit

Cost-share funding through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is limited to 160 acres per farmer or landowner. The funds will be made available in July, but you can start submitting applications now through your local soil and water conservation district office. Don’t wait too long to sign up. The funding allocated for this year may run out, as this is a popular program. Farmers are also encouraged to call their local SWCD office to inquire about additional cost-share opportunities available through other program sources.

Last fall in Iowa, 2,900 farmers and landowners participated in the state cost-share program, including 1,200 farmers using the conservation practice for the first time, and more than 1,700 farmers continue the use of these practices. An estimated $10.2 million of private funding was invested by the participating farmers and landowners to more than match the $6.1 million contributed by the state’s cost-share fund. To learn more about the Iowa Water Quality Initiative, visit cleanwateriowa.org.

“Lots of folks can qualify for this cost-share funding,” Naig says. “This is an important program to encourage the use of more water quality practices on the land. You may think that after having this cost-share funding program in place for a while, we might see a dip in the number of first-time users. But quite the contrary, we’ve continued to see a surge in users. And this is just the state of Iowa’s water quality cost-share program. There are also soil and water quality programs offered by local soil and water conservation districts, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies and organizations.”

Contact local NRCS office

“If you participated last year and are interested in our state cost-share program again this year, we encourage you to call your county conservation office,” Naig says. “The NRCS office is open for business, but you can’t just walk in the door anymore due to COVID-19 precautions. You have to call the office and work with them. NRCS and SWCD staff will answer the phone and can help you.”

The popularity of cover crops and use of no-till and strip till continue to grow. “We’re thrilled about that,” he adds. “It’s wonderful to see some green cover growing in the fields in early spring, and to see some green cover in fields over winter. Cover crops are an important practice to build soil health, as well as to improve water quality.”

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