Last week the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced the extension of two unique water quality projects. Both are focused, innovative ways to encourage adoption of water quality-related conservation practices. The projects were initially funded in 2015 and are being extended for three years to scale up their efforts and accelerate the use of these water-quality improvement practices in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
“These extensions will allow us to build on the strong foundation that has already been established by these projects,” says Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture. “From the start, we’ve recognized we will need innovative approaches to engage farmers and encourage adoption of water quality-focused practices. Extending these projects allows us to add new partners and continue to work with local farmers and agribusinesses to achieve water quality improvement goals.”
These are the two projects receiving extensions:
• Driving Cover Crop Adoption Through Education and Technical Assistance and Showing Environmental Benefits. This project is led by the Conservation Technology Information Center and encourages farmers to integrate cover crops into their operation through partnerships with ag retailers and supply chain initiatives. Starting in 2018, this project will integrate a training program and incentive structure for agronomists and certified crop advisers to encourage farmer adoption of water quality-focused practices.
• Integration of Cover Crops into Livestock Operations. This project is led by Practical Farmers of Iowa and works with livestock producers in the Floyd, North Raccoon and East Nishnabotna river watersheds to demonstrate value of having cover crops as part of farming operations with livestock. The project is being expanded to assess soil health metrics along with economic benefits of cover crops.
More details about these two projects and other demonstration projects that are part of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative are at Clean Water Iowa's Water Demonstration Projects webpage.
Projects will attract matching funds
The two projects will receive over $1 million in additional funding through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative over the next three years. In addition to the state funds, the two projects will generate an estimated $4.5 million in matching funds to support water quality improvement efforts as well as other in-kind contributions.
These funds will allow the projects to focus on scaling up implementation of conservation practices identified in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The projects will continue to build on the development of new and innovative practice delivery mechanisms within the project areas.
Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a science- and technology-based approach to achieving a 45% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to Iowa 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 stormwater runoff, to address these issues.
The IWQI 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.
The initiative is seeing some exciting results. Last fall, 2,600 farmers invested an estimated $8.7 million in funding to match $4.8 million in state cost-share funds to adopt cover crops, no-till or strip till, or use a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Participants include 1,000 farmers using a practice for the first time and more than 1,600 past users who are trying cover crops again and are receiving a reduced rate of cost share.
Iowa water quality demo projects total now at 64
A total of 64 demonstration projects are currently located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 14 targeted watershed projects, seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 43 urban water-quality demonstration projects. More than 250 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $42.2 million to go with the $31.5 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $420 million in funding has been documented for efforts in support of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy last year. This represents a $32 million increase of funding in support of Iowa water quality programs and conservation efforts over the previous year.
More information about the initiative can be found at cleanwateriowa.org.
Source: Iowa Department of Agriculture