By State Senator Steve Sodders
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award was presented during a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair. Among the honorees were Chris Foss (Foss Farm Corporation) of La Porte City, Mark Vernon Dengler of Dysart and Al and Ruth Schafbuch of Dysart.
The award recognizes the efforts of Iowa’s farmers as environmental leaders committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Many Iowa farmers take voluntary action to improve and protect our environment and natural resources, while encouraging others to follow in their footsteps.
Improving Iowa’s water quality has been a top priority in recent years, and investments are paying off. We have reduced sediment entering our waterways and lowered phosphorus levels, but nitrate levels have not yet declined.
In 2013, the state released its Nutrient Reduction Strategy, with the goal of a 45 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorous levels. By making improvements, farming becomes a more efficient operation, and we keep dangerous levels of nitrates out of our drinking water. It’s good for public health and saves money.
Iowa’s water quality efforts are aimed at improving soil health and reducing nutrient runoff with better cover crops and tilling practices. We are also establishing demonstration projects in watersheds throughout the state where best practices are used to improve water quality and educate Iowans about how to implement the techniques on their own land.
An Iowa Farm & Rural Life Poll shows that Iowa farmers are generally supportive of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and its goals, and are willing to take action. Most farmers expressed concern about agriculture’s impact on water quality. The challenge now is to translate those positive attitudes into practices that reduce harmful erosion and runoff.
Appropriations this year will help. The infrastructure budget included an additional $5.2 million to improve water quality. We also provided $9.6 million to clean up and improve Iowa lakes. In addition, $6.75 million for conservation cost-share programs will increase opportunities for our farmers to implement proven practices.
Working together, we can continue building on our successes and create a cleaner, healthier Iowa environment that will support a growing economy for future generations. Learn more about Iowa’s water quality improvement efforts at www.cleanwateriowa.org.