Water quality has deep roots in Greene County and Governor Branstad saw them first hand on Monday.
Mike Bravard of Jefferson gave the Governor a tour of his bioreactor and visited with him about his family’s commitment to conservation. More than 60 friends and neighbors gathered to showcase the support for water quality in the area and the need for increased funding.
“I want to be as knowledgeable as I can be on the practices that are being used in Iowa to help us implement the nutrient reduction strategy,” Governor Branstad said. “We’re learning more all the time and we are working hard to secure additional funding so we can put more of these practices in place. I think as governor of an agricultural state it’s important to be as knowledgeable as I can be so I can be a good advocate for the funding we need in the support of these practices.”
For Bravard, recipient of the 2015 Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Environmental Leader Award, the visit was an opportunity to educate and reiterate farmers’ commitment to water quality.
“I think it’s an honor for us to be able to tell him that we want to be part of the solution to get better water quality and that we are doing things that will make our water better,” Bravard said. “I have a lot of neighbors who are doing a lot of good things through nitrogen management and conservation practices like reduced tillage. On our farming operation, we have work to do through nitrogen management and more conservation practices.”
Bravard installed one of the first bioreactors in the state in 2008. The bioreactor installation was funded through a partnership with the Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance, ISA and the Sand County Foundation. Keegan Kult, ISA Environmental Programs and Services environmental scientist, described the function of the bioreactor to the Governor and crowd.
“A bioreactor is an underground bed of wood chips that filters nitrates out of tile water flowing through the carbon source,” Kult said. “We can see a 30 to 60 percent reduction in nitrates when water is treated through a bioreactor.”
Bravard’s bioreactor isn’t the only conservation practice that has taken hold in the area.
“Touring with the Governor on Monday reminded me of the great work that has been done by this neighborhood in this county,” said Todd Sutphin, ISA EPS senior operations manager. “This was one of the first watersheds we started working in 14 years ago and today a drive down the road reveals wetlands, buffers, oxbows and other conservation practices implemented by the farming community.”
Practices like bioreactors provide a positive impact on water quality in the state. However, since a bioreactor is an edge-of-field practice offering no yield benefit to farmers, cost-share funding is essential to widespread adoption and implementation.
Long-term, sustainable funding for water quality practices like bioreactors has been a hot topic at the state house as legislators scramble to consider options and pass a bill before adjournment.
“I’m very hopeful we can put together a long-term reliable source of funding for water quality,” Gov. Branstad said. “To get where we want will take a number of years, but it’s also going to take significant resources. I made this my top priority this year and we have a bill now before the House of Representatives that’s going to provide $464 million worth of funding between now and 2029. I’m proud of the fact that we made water quality a top priority and that hopefully we will get something done before the legislature adjourns.”
By Dorothy Tate, ISA public relations manager, and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager