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