The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced a new public-private partnership to deliver conservation planning and outreach services to expand conservation and water quality efforts in three targeted watersheds.
North Iowa Agronomy Partners in Waverly and LT Leon Associates Inc. in Des Moines, IA will assist farmers and landowners in the conservation planning process and help them access federal programs focused on installing additional conservation practices.
The project is merging traditional approaches to deliver conservation through scaling up conservation planning and conservation practices with a non-traditional approach utilizing private agronomic, conservation and engineering service providers. Augmenting current, traditional efforts, this project will provide 240 new or updated conservation plans covering an estimated 46,000 acres.
“This effort will increase our capacity to reach more individual farmers and landowners to help scale-up the water quality efforts in these targeted watersheds,” said Mike Naig, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. “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.”
“RCPP puts our partners, like IDALS and IAWA, in the driver’s seat to meet conservation needs at the local level,” said Kurt Simon, state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines. “Joining together public and private resources, through RCPP, also harnesses innovation that neither sector could implement alone.”
This effort is directly in support of the $47 million Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), co-led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA). IAWA will contribute $100,000 to IDALS to help support this innovative partnership.
Due to the large scale of funding awarded through this RCPP, IDALS and IAWA have worked with NRCS to develop a process to facilitate private companies assisting in the conservation planning process. This additional capacity is intended to ease the workload on local field office staff already working hard to deliver the current level of funding their offices receive.
With an updated conservation plan, landowner and farmers will have more streamlined access to federal programs to install a variety of conservation practices including, but not limited to: cover crops, buffers, bioreactors, saturated buffers, improved nutrient management, wetlands, no-till and strip-till.
The two companies that are providing the conservation planning and outreach services for this effort and their contact information are:
- North Iowa Agronomy Partners - Waverly
- Jason Gomes - firstname.lastname@example.org (319) 230-5495
- Middle and Upper Cedar River Watersheds
- LT Leon Associates Inc.- Des Moines, IA
- Luis Leon - email@example.com (515) 422-7016
- North Raccoon River Watershed
“This project will help to leverage private sector resources to deliver conservation more effectively – a key strategy and recommendation from the Conservation Infrastructure Initiative.” said Sean McMahon, Executive Director of IAWA. “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 Conservation Infrastructure Initiative is a designed to foster greater private sector engagement and investment in implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, while also creating jobs and economic development opportunities.
Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Project
The $9.5 million grant awarded to the Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Project is the largest National Funding Pool award in the country through RCPP in 2016. These funds will be leveraged with $4.75 million in state funding ($2.5 from IDALS and $2.25 from Iowa DNR) and $33 million from the private sector. Farmers and landowners will be making additional investments that are not included in these amounts.
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.
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.”
Background on Iowa Water Quality Initiative
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a collaborative research based approach to achieving a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus losses to our 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 initiative 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.
In addition to the statewide cost share, there are also currently 56 existing demonstration projects located across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the initiative. This includes 15 targeted watershed projects, 7 projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices and 34 urban water quality demonstration projects. More than 220 organizations are participating in these projects. These partners will provide $32.3 million dollars to go with over $21.7 million in state funding going to these projects.
More than $340 million in state and federal funds have been directed to programs with water quality benefits in Iowa last year. This total does not include the cost share amount that farmers pay to match state and federal programs and funds spent to build practices built without government assistance.
More information about the initiative can be found at www.CleanWaterIowa.org.
About The Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance
The Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) is increasing the pace and scale of farmer-led water quality efforts. Founded in 2014 by the Iowa Corn, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producer Association, IAWA is building public-private partnerships focused on implementing water quality solutions. Iowa farmers are actively engaged in various conservation efforts that improve water quality while maintaining or increasing profitability. Learn more at www.iowaagwateralliance.com/
About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
Through a network of 100 local field offices, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps Iowa’s farmers and private landowners address conservation concerns on their farms. Originally established by Congress in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), NRCS has expanded to become a conservation leader for all natural resources, ensuring private lands are conserved, restored, and provide for a sustainable economic future. Find out how NRCS helps people help the land at www.ia.nrcs.usda.gov.
Dustin Vande Hoef (IDALS)
Zita Quade (IAWA)
Laura Crowell (USDA NRCS)
(515) 323-2207, Laura.Crowell@ia.usda.gov