Picture Iowa – Planting into cover crops

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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.”

Follow this link to see more photos and continue reading the story: https://slate.adobe.com/cp/6VgHn/

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

Governor’s farm tour reveals conservation progress

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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

Exploring the Envirothon

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Okay, here’s a test for you. What is Limnology? What is the state criterion for dissolved oxygen in Iowa’s warm water streams? What is thermocline? What is the Parent Material for Sharpsburg soils?

Are you stumped?

A group of high school students from across Iowa correctly answered those questions and many others from aquatic, current issues, forestry, soils and wildlife categories during the 2016 Envirothon held at Spring Brook State Park near Guthrie Center.

The Envirothon, sponsored in part by the Iowa Soybean Association, is a team competition for high school students. It challenges the students in their critical thinking skills by working as a team to conduct hands-on investigations and answer written questions concerning environmental issues in five categories.

This year fifteen high school teams competed at the 20th Annual Iowa Envirothon State Competition.

Continue reading here: https://slate.adobe.com/cp/mWotz/

 

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

ISA directors meet with Chinese officials

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ISA directors are wrapping up a 12 day mission to China to learn more about this important market (imports 60 percent of all the soybeans imported in the world) and to strengthen new and long-term relationships.
So far we have met with two of the largest private soybean crushers in the country as well as with two of the large state owned soybean import companies (COFCO and ChinaTex).  Even though China already has overcapacity in soy crushers (perhaps as high as 40 percent more than they need), we heard of several new plants in the works.  We toured one new crusher that will be in full operation later this month.
We also spent several days visiting aquaculture farms in east Central China using the Intensive Pond Aquaculture (IPA) technology.  IPA technology was introduced to China three years ago in a project funded by the Iowa Soybean Association.  IPA involves installing channelled raceways that use flowing water to improve the overall water quality, remove fecal matter and dramatically increase overall productivity.  From the initial demonstration three years ago, there are now more than 1,000 of the IPA’s in use across China and this is anticipated to explode in the next 3-5 years.  Key for soybean farmers?  More soybean meal and soy concentrates in the feed for the fish.
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We have also received market reports by the China based U.S. Soybean Export Council staff as well as from officials from the Agricultural Trade Office of the US Consulate office in Shanghai.
In all of the meetings, near consensus that demand for imported soybeans will continue to increase, but at a pace slower than in the past.  Growth is going to continue to be driven by the increase for soybean meal in pork, poultry, eggs, fish, shrimp and to a lesser extent dairy.
By Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association