Iowa bill would strengthen mental health, conservation funding02/13/2020 | Water Quality, Policy, Economics
By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior writer
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is making her way through Iowa, and she wants to hear feedback from Iowans on the ideas behind her Invest in Iowa Act bill.
The Act would provide additional funding for water quality, conservation and mental health while also cutting taxes, Reynolds said at her weekly press conference earlier this week.
“Maintaining Iowa’s vibrant economy and fiscal health ensures our ability to invest in things that matter most to Iowans,” Reynolds said. “The Invest in Iowa Act is an investment in our future and in those who are our future.”
If passed, the Invest in Iowa Act would provide additional funding for water quality and conservation and outdoor recreation efforts under the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust, which was created under the Iowa legislature 10 years ago. An estimated $100 million, or 58% of the Trust Fund will go toward water quality. This is a 31% increase in funding. She said $52 million will be used for other conservation and outdoor recreation efforts, representing an increase of 14.6% of current funding.
This additional funding would help farmers scale up their conservation efforts, said Iowa Soybean Association President-Elect Jeff Jorgenson.
“As the original on-farm conservationist, farmers have a desire—and a responsibility—to care for and protect the resources for the generations to come,” said Jorgenson, who raises cow-calf pairs and grows soybeans and corn near Sidney.
Additional funding would also boost demand for businesses and service providers necessary in the design and implementation of soil and water conservation practices, Jorgenson said.
“Farmers like me are well-positioned to deliver conservation outcomes that benefit all Iowans,” Jorgenson said. “I look forward to the legislature affording us that opportunity.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said Iowa farmers have shown their commitment to conservation and water quality through their efforts in working toward the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.
“We didn’t just put the strategy on a shelf to collect dust and check a box,” Naig said. “Instead, together we rolled up our sleeves and we went to work.”
Naig said the Invest in Iowa Act builds on the water quality funding secured through Senate File 512.
“The bill provides certainty and dedicated funding that will allow us to focus resources and deploy scientifically-proven practices on the ground at a pace that we have never seen before,” Naig said.”
Iowa farmers’ commitment to conservation is evident in the state, Reynolds said. When asked about a mandatory approach to water quality versus a voluntary approach, Reynolds responded: “I really don’t think we need to. The amount of personal income that farmers and producers are putting into the environment, water quality and conservation practices is phenomenal,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t think we do a good job telling that story.”
She said the town hall meetings will be a chance to talk about those efforts across the state.
“That will be a part of these town halls—an opportunity to highlight the practices that are already in place and talk about how we can scale it up.”
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