The Iowa Department of Agriculture honored Kurt Simon on July 9 with an Agriculture Leader Award. Simon is retiring at the end of the month from his position as state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa. He received the award for his efforts to support and advance Iowa’s soil conservation and water quality initiatives.
5 YEARS: Simon was appointed by USDA to head the NRCS in Iowa as state conservationist in 2015.
“I’m grateful for Kurt’s contributions to the state’s conservation efforts,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “He is a friend and has been a mentor to my team over the past five years. Working together, we have increased funding for soil health and water quality initiatives, expanded watershed projects, engaged more private partners, and broken ground on new projects. I’m proud of the progress our teams have made, and I know that Kurt’s leadership helped us be successful.”
Increased conservation efforts
Simon was appointed by USDA to head the NRCS in Iowa as state conservationist in 2015. He immediately collected feedback from his staff and conservation partners and leveraged this information to make positive changes within NRCS. Under Simon’s leadership, the agency reorganized to better serve Iowans and added a district conservationist to every field office to provide more local, technical resources for farmers and landowners.
During Simon’s tenure as state conservationist, Iowa has benefited from increased conservation funding through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program and various conservation easement programs. These voluntary programs help farmers install soil and water conservation practices that balance agricultural production and environmental health.
A natural relationship-builder, Simon has established strong partnerships with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and other agencies, and built coalitions of conservation-focused organizations to advance Iowa’s soil health and water quality efforts. Simon’s successor as NRCS state conservationist is expected to be named by USDA within four to six weeks.
The Iowa Secretary of Agriculture’s Leader Award is given to individuals and businesses that help advance Iowa’s agriculture community through advocacy, conservation, education, innovation, market development and other significant contributions.