Today Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey requested $6.65 million in funding for the Iowa water quality initiative in fiscal year 2015, with an additional $1 million requested in support of urban conservation.
For the current fiscal year, the department received $2.4 million for the water quality initiative, along with a one-time appropriation of $20 million to kick-start the initiative.
The requested $6.65 million amount is higher than the currently scheduled amount for FY2015, but Northey says the increase brings water quality funds in line with other longstanding IDALS conservation efforts.
“We’d like it to be the same size as our effort in soil conservation,” Northey says. “Our soil conservation effort is $6.65 million, and it’s already scheduled to be $4.45 million dollars for the water quality initiative [in FY2015]; we’d like it to match that $6.65 million. We think that’ll give us the dollars to be able to take advantage of the momentum that’s out there.”
That momentum is evident in the runaway success of the IDALS conservation practices cost-share program, which earlier this fall appropriated $2.8 million dollars of nutrient reduction practices on 120,680 acres representing 1,096 different farmers. Just last week 8 watersheds were selected for a $4.1 million investment to use them as demonstrations for good water quality practices, with the hope that it would encourage farmer adoption statewide.
During the budget request, Northey was not asked any questions or pressed on his increases by members of the budget panel, which included Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds. Northey says that’s a positive sign, given the panel members’ record on supporting water quality.
“There’s no secret to what these activities are. The question’s just going to be: ‘Can they find the dollars to be able to do this?’ The governor, the lieutenant governor, the rest of the crew are big supporters of a voluntary, science-based initiative; they led the charge last year in funding this, so I think they understand what this is about.”
Northey’s budget request also included $1.2 million to close 8 agricultural drainage wells.