Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is an opportunity to recognize the important conservation practices that are at work on Iowa's landscape and bring attention to the ongoing efforts by farmers, landowners and urban residents to protect the state's soil and water resources. On Monday, April 29 Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation recognizing April 28 to May 5 as Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week.
"Soil and Water Conservation Week is a great opportunity to highlight the important work being done to prevent soil erosion and protect water quality in Iowa," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "It is vital that we preserve these resources that help make Iowa agriculture so productive and make it such a key driver of our state's economy."
During the "Dust Bowl" years of the 1930s, the first efforts to prevent soil erosion were developed. In 1939, Iowa passed a law establishing a state agency and the means for soil and water conservation districts to organize. Over 70 years later, the 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state are hosting a variety of events during Conservation Week to highlight the conservation work being done across the state. To see details of all events being held this week click here.
Conservation partners in Iowa join with state's Soil Conservation Districts to meet ag and environmental protection needs
The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship's division of soil conservation provides leadership in the protection and management of soil, water and mineral resources. The division also works with Iowa's Soil and Water Conservation Districts throughout the state and private farmers and landowners to meet their agricultural and environmental protection needs, in both rural and urban landscapes. The state ag department's conservation partners include USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, and Iowa State University and many others.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"This year we celebrate 40 years of Iowa's Cost Share Program, the first of its kind in the nation to put conservation practices on the land," says Northey. "Cost share provides funds to support the construction of conservation practices that are matched by farmers or landowners. In Iowa, over half the practices placed on the land are terraces, with grasses waterways making up almost a fifth. Other practices include water and sediment control basins, grade stabilization structures and more.
Iowa's soil conservation cost-sharing program is 40-years-old this year
Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is in coordination with the national Stewardship Week, sponsored by the National Association of Conservation Districts. This year's Stewardship Week theme is "Where does your water shed." Currently, there are more than 57 active watershed and water quality projects across the state.
The state ag department, in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University, recently released a draft of the new Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy is a science and technology-based framework to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waters and the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy uses a comprehensive and integrated approach, addressing both point and nonpoint sources of nutrients, to achieve reductions in loading of both nitrogen and phosphorus into Iowa's lakes and streams.
Iowa's new Nutrient Reduction Strategy is gaining support in Iowa Legislature
Anyone interested in learning more about the nutrient reduction strategy can visit this link.
Iowa's new Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a voluntary plan to help clean lakes, streams and rivers of farm runoff solutions. "We, of course, still have much more work to do on conservation, but working together, in partnership, I'm confident we can build on the conservation ethic of Iowans and continue our efforts to improve the quality of the air, soil and water in our state," Northey says.
The idea of using a voluntary instead of a regulatory approach to cleaning up Iowa waters is gaining support in the state Legislature in 2013. Lawmakers have voted to increase the amount of state cost-share funding available for soil and water conservation work. The final vote has yet to be taken.
Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa, is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. His priorities are the expanding the opportunities surrounding renewable energy, promoting conservation and stewardship, and telling the story of Iowa agriculture.