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Year in Review: Water Quality

*Edited and condensed by Ben Nuelle

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship continues to expand efforts to make water quality improvements.

The department announced an innovative new program aimed at increasing acres of cover crops in the state earlier this year. Iowa farmers who plant cover crops in the fall (2017) were eligible for a $5 per acre premium reduction on their crop insurance in 2018. IDALS has worked with the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA), who oversees the federal crop insurance program, to establish this three-year demonstration project.

The department also had a record number of first-time participants in conservation practices. More than 2,600 farmers signed up to try cover crops, no-till/strip-till or nitrification inhibitors on more than 270,000 acres in 98 counties. The state will provide nearly $4.8 million in cost share funds to match the $8.7 million investment by Iowa farmers. This record participation in the program includes more than 1000 first-time participants.

Iowa farmers planted more than 353,000 acres of cover crops with financial assistance from state and federal conservation programs in the fall of 2016 – nearly 18 percent more than the previous year. Based on statewide surveys and aerial imagery completed by conservation groups this spring, it is estimated Iowa farmers planted at least 600,000 cover crop acres last fall.

There are also currently 56 existing demonstration projects across the state to help implement and demonstrate water quality practices through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. 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.

Many farm groups along with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey hope to see long-term water quality funding in this upcoming legislative session beginning next month.

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