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Water Quality Efforts Showcased At Open House

By Staff | Jul 9, 2015

ANKENY – Farmers are embracing conservation practices that will help meet the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, according to state and industry officials who attended the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) water quality open house July 1 in Ankeny.

“ISA has made significant contributions to move the needle forward on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” said Roger Wolf, director of ISA’s Environmental Programs and Services. “From our vantage point, we are advancing the science and practices laid out in the strategy with producers, landowners and various stakeholders throughout the state.”

Wolf said ISA has been involved in nine Water Quality Initiative projects, created various watershed plans, partnered to install pollinator and wildlife habitats in addition to the implementation of various conservation practices. Of the 40 bioreactors in Iowa, ISA has helped install and integrate 22, providing significant results and setting the stage for many more to be installed across the landscape.

This progress was highlighted by environmental experts at ISA’s open house with nearly 100 guests including Iowa House Rep. Kevin Koester (District 38). Judging by what he learned about water quality efforts at the ISA open house, Koester said he’s confident the strategy will work.

“There is no intelligent resistance to us staying the course on this process,” Koester said. “Your farmer members are funding your initiatives to improve our state. This was a great visit.”

Iowa soybean farmers are fully committed to supporting the strategy to achieve its goals. In fiscal year 2015, ISA invested $1.2 million in soybean checkoff funds, which was leveraged with $1.4 million in federal, state and local funding. This investment supports 26 active ISA-led water quality projects and 17 water monitoring projects that includes 115 farmers and 436 sites – 220 tile lines and 169 streams and 47 other sites.

ISA water quality activities, such as water testing through ISA’s state certified testing lab, were showcased at the open house.

“We have seen tremendous progress in the short time that the strategy has been in effect,” Wolf said. “There is commitment, engagement and alignment of ag and urban entities that need to pull the rope to improve water quality in this unprecedented strategy. This is a multi-decade effort given Iowa’s landscape, variable weather and rich soils. Farmers are proud of the work they’re doing and they realize much more needs to be done. We want the public to know we’re serious.”

The two-year-old initiative is a science-based effort to reduce nitrate and phosphorous loads in Iowa waterways by 45 percent from point and nonpoint sources, which will help curb water pollution entering the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s early to judge the program other than all indicators say this is the right path,” Koester said.

ISA President Tom Oswald of Cleghorn said the open house demonstrated ISA’s dedication to water quality improvement. The huge floor-to-ceiling map with thousands of dots throughout the state depicting ISA’s on-farm agronomic and water quality projects and research efforts shows the organization’s reach, he said.

“We’re testing and implementing water quality and soil health practices all over the state,” said Oswald, a big proponent of no-till farming that curbs erosion. “Improvement will take time, but there’s no excuse not to try.”