Northey visits with ISA directors

Northey-3468Showing conservation practices that make an impact and how the practices can be implemented to improve water quality is invaluable said Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey in remarks Wednesday to the Iowa Soybean Association board of directors.

“We have a lot of work to do in implementing the state’s nutrient reduction strategy, but we wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are and what Iowa has accomplished without the work of the Iowa Soybean Association,” he said.

The grain farmer from Spirit Lake challenged ISA’s farmer directors to continue to identify ways to scale up on-farm conservation practices that lower nitrates leaving the land and to find ways to acquire more funding for water quality initiatives.
“How can we go from $9 million to $15 million to $50 million in funding? That will take scaling up practices and capturing and measuring results,” Northey said.

Forty-six watershed projects are underway in Iowa, Northey said. Nearly half are being implemented in urban areas, others in rural and the remaining in combination. There are also statewide initiatives to engage more farmers in cover crops and improved tillage practices.

“The public expects measurements and we need to share what we know, warts and all,” Northey added. “We must be transparent and if some practices aren’t delivering, then we need to say why,” Northey said. “Iowans want to know that the resources being invested are making progress on water quality.”

Duo find their niche in asparagus

Asparagus in Iowa-01473Corn, soybeans, and Asparagus. Not the crop combination that you normally hear about, but for one Iowa family it is proving to be a successful one.

Twenty-years-ago Jackie Eibs and Ricki Eibs Tuttle (sisters in law) decided to plant two acres of asparagus. Those acres near Laurel have now turned into three acres, and they grow 10,000 to 14,000 pounds of fresh asparagus every year for their business RicJac Farms.

“When we first started I would drive from business to business in the area asking if they wanted to buy asparagus,” Ricki Eibs Tuttle said while driving down a dusty road to their asparagus fields. “Now we are supplying to farmers markets, restaurants, and grocery stores.”

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By Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

Conservation in the countryside


Mark Schleisman pauses for a portrait after hosting a tour on his farm north of Carroll this week. Schleisman is installing a bioreactor and saturated buffer on his farm to filter water leaving his fields before entering Elk Creek. The conservation structures remove nitrates and other chemicals thus helping with water quality. (Photo by Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Picture Iowa – Planting into cover crops


Josh Nelson drills soybeans into a field with a terminated rye ‪#‎covercrop‬near Belmond yesterday. Cover crops prevent soil erosion while improving soil health while holding nutrients in place until a future crop can use them.

Nelson and other farmers continue to work with cover crops, bioreactors and other conservation methods to find the best way to prevent nutrients from entering waterways.

The new shepherds on the block

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This time of year Nikki and Rueben Sprung bring a new definition to parenting. For four months starting in January, they tend to their flock of sheep and care for newborn lambs.

The job isn’t for the faint of heart as they work around the clock to keep everything in order. As days stretch into nights, they proficiently work to keep the sheep fed while always watching the health of newborn lambs. All while also taking care of their cattle and hogs.

“We’re good together,” Nikki said about working with her husband on a daily basis.

”To work with your best friend and your spouse is great,” Rueben added. “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.”

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Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Picture Iowa – #Plant16

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Jack Harney, a Woodward area farmer, plants corn Tuesday evening in Central Iowa. Harney lIke many other farmers was Trying to get as many acres planted as possible before rain saturated the fields preventing work. Harney is happy with his start to the season by already planting about 75 percent of his corn acres.

Photo by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Senate Water Quality Visits

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Todd Sutphin and Adam Kiel, staff members with the Environmental Programs & Services (EPS) team at the Iowa Soybean Association, met with state legislators this week to inform them about water quality efforts by farmers to improve Iowa’s water quality.
The EPS team members highlighted the work underway in Rock Creek near Osage.

Rock Creek is an example of farmer neighbors coming together to develop a watershed plan that implements several different conservation methods, including bioreactors, saturated buffers and cover crops, that reduce nitrates and phosphorus in the stream using the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy as a guide.
Both Republican and Democratic senators listened to the presentations and were able to ask questions about the work being done.

“The Nutrient Reduction Strategy has given watershed groups nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals, in the past we didn’t have goals everywhere in Iowa,” Kiel told several Democratic senators while pointing at a map detailing watersheds where work is currently underway. “That’s ushered in a new era where we have some targets.”

Senator Rozenboom, a Republican representing District 40, agreed that water quality is a problem in the state because of the topography and leaky nature of the soils.

“We have to get an honest assessment of water quality in Iowa if we are going to solve it,” Rosenboom said. “We can not meet the standards and don’t have enough money to fix some of the things people want fixed.”

Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat representing District 49, was interested to hear about all the collaboration that is taking place in regards to water quality.

“There are so many things going on and they are all getting funded a little bit here and a little bit there,” Hart said. “Somehow we have to pull all that together and roll it into a big plan to spread the resources that are already there, and we can add to it to come up with that astronomical sum needed.”

Sutphin told the senators that a watershed approach would help build partnerships between landowners, farmers and other organizations. It is estimated that it will cost $3–4 million per Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) 12 (HUC-12 watersheds are approximately 15,000-25,000 acres in size) to achieve water quality goals set by the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Iowa has approximately 1,600 HUC-12 watersheds. The ISA is committed to measurable progress on nutrient and water management using the philosophy that it begins at the watershed level and advances with long-term, sustainable and dedicated funding.

“We are advocates of this watershed approach. A watershed plan allows you have a guiding document of what the issues are and where conservation practices can be placed in that watershed,” Sutphin said. “It’s a process for how that money is utilized and targeted.”

Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager