This July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to extend two landmark initiatives that have advanced water quality in Iowa. The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative and the National Water Quality Initiative provide targeted funding and technical resources to farmers and landowners looking to improve their land.
These initiatives work with farmers and landowners in targeted watersheds to implement on-farm conservation. Such practices prevent surface runoff of sediment and nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, which can degrade water quality and protect soil from erosion.
These national initiatives align with the purpose of the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. In 2013, Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship kicked off its Water Quality Initiative to take action on the goals of the state Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Taxpayer funds from the legislature are leveraged to drive matching funds and public-private partnerships creating a multiplying effect.
Iowa’s Water Quality Initiative focuses on eight targeted watersheds for the following rivers:
- East/West Nishnabotna
- North Raccoon
- South Skunk
- Middle Cedar
In addition to on-farm practices, Iowa’s WQI supports projects to address point-source pollution and provides funds for urban conservation efforts. Each year, the Water Quality Initiative must provide a progress report to the Iowa Legislature – you can read the 2018 report here. Despite farm income declining over the last five years, an increasing number of farmers have invested in new conservation practices like cover crops, buffers, wetlands, and more. The continued support from the USDA through 2023 will help to continue the implementation of these practices.
Our policy team has been traveling Iowa visiting with farmers who see the need for change to address our state’s water quality problems. Look for our upcoming blog series highlighting the efforts of these farmers through the implementation of new practices and new mindsets on farming.
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