Still more to do to reduce nutrients
The fifth anniversary of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy is an important opportunity to step back, review where we are, how far we’ve come and take a hard look at what’s next.
What I’ve seen all my life and continue to see as Secretary of Agriculture is that Iowans aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and respond to a challenge. Rural and urban, we work together to leave our land and water in better shape for the next generation.
When I joined Bill Northey and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship as Deputy Secretary five years ago, we made improving our water quality a key priority. We knew it was time to act decisively.
The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy was the culmination of two years of hard work by our department, the Iowa DNR, Iowa State University and a broad group of stakeholders to develop a science-based model to guide our efforts. Then in 2013, we began the important work of implementing the strategy.
Now, five years later, we’re looking at the progress we’re making and identifying ways to do even more to protect and conserve our natural resources.
We have come a long way but we know we have much more work to do.
Working Together to Make Clean Water a Priority
Over the last five years, more than 250 partners have come together to take on the challenge of improving our water quality. Farmers, private businesses, municipalities and homeowners are demonstrating and implementing more conservation practices than ever before.
We currently have 65 projects located across the state to implement and demonstrate water quality practices. This includes 14 targeted watershed projects and seven projects focused on expanding the use and innovative delivery of water quality practices.
There have been 44 urban water quality demonstration projects implemented.
Everyone has skin in this game, and we are proud of our urban neighbors and partners for stepping up to the challenge.
More than 8,000 farmers, including nearly 4,600 first-time users, have signed up to use a water quality-focused practice through the Water Quality Initiative. These farmers have invested more than $17 million to try cover crops, no-till, strip-till or a nitrification inhibitor on their land. Iowa farmers are responding to the call to action.
I am extremely proud that outreach events effectively doubled in the last year to nearly 500 events focused on water quality with nearly 55,000 attendees. Education is the lynchpin to this process.
Building on Our Progress
Our work thus far has been focused on building the knowledge base and funding needed to move from demonstration projects to larger watershed-scale implementation projects. With increased water quality funding approved and signed into law this legislative session, we can attract new partners and scale up efforts across the state.
Other states recognize that Iowa is a leader on this important issue. It’s not just our fertile land that makes Iowa agriculture world-class. It’s our ingenuity, collaboration and can-do spirit that has made us a leader and paved the way for progress.
We are on the right path but have much more work to do. With science as our guide, we can work together to make even more significant water quality improvements.
I look forward to working with our incredible farmers and neighbors throughout Iowa to get the job done.
It’s the Iowa way.
Mike Naig is the current Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.