Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says that a successful Water Quality Initiative (WQI) demonstration project in southwest Iowa is expanding into five more Iowa counties, including Carroll, Guthrie, Cherokee, Ida and Woodbury.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and other partners will work with farmers and landowners by using precision ag tools to identify, build and expand opportunities for forage-based crops where row crops are less profitable. Assistance will be provided to cattle producers on an individual basis to evaluate their operations and goals on a sub-field level and to identify the best opportunities to target conservation practices.
Since 2016, when the initial project launched in Taylor and Page Counties, 32,500 acres of cover crops have been planted, 5,200 acres of cropland have been converted to forage-based systems, and 32 grade stabilization structures have been constructed. These practices are proven to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality while helping the state move closer to achieving our Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.
“This water quality project has been very successful in Taylor and Page Counties and reinforces that cattle and conservation make for a great combination,” says Naig. “We are now expanding this creative and exciting project into five more counties including Carroll, Guthrie, Woodbury, Cherokee and Ida, and our goal is to continue to expand and replicate this innovative model statewide. Farmers and landowners are proving that we can conserve and protect our valuable natural resources while also keeping Iowa’s farmland working in ways that keep family farms productive.”
Project coordinators in Carroll and Cherokee Counties are being hired to provide technical expertise and resources to farmers and landowners at the local level. Goals and practice priorities include grazing and hay land planting, installing grade stabilization structures that incorporate watering systems, promoting extended crop rotations, incorporating the use of cover crops in livestock operations, and engaging new and beginning farmers.
The first phase of this expansion into the five-county WQI project area, which is also part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), is expected to cost approximately $465,000 and last through 2025. Additional partners include the Cherokee, Ida, Woodbury, Carroll and Guthrie County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Cherokee and Carroll County Cattlemen, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council and Iowa State University.
The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013 to help implement the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which is a science and technology-based approach to protecting and improving our water quality. The strategy brings together both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban stormwater runoff, to address these issues. The initiative seeks to harness the collective ability of both private and public resources and organizations to deliver a clear and consistent message to stakeholders to reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.