Ankeny, Iowa — Cedar Rapids Utilities Director Steve Hershner was presented the Friend of the Iowa Soybean Farmer Award by the Iowa Soybean Association during its annual Leadership Awards Banquet held Jan. 27 in Des Moines.
The award, sponsored by Cargill, recognized Hershner for playing a key role in the success of the Middle Cedar Partnership Project (MCPP). It connects Cedar Rapids and the city’s water utility with upstream farmers and landowners to increase farming conservation practices that reduce nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the Cedar River.
With more conservation practices in place upstream, water quality is improved downstream before it reaches the residents of Cedar Rapids.
“The city serves 180,000 people, but because of our industries, it’s more like serving the wastewater treatment equivalent of more than 1.5 million people,” Hershner says.
Hershner and staff are setting a positive example for other municipalities to creatively meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (INRS). Established nearly a decade ago, it established goals for point-source reductions of at least two-thirds nitrogen and three-fourths phosphorus from levels currently discharged by these facilities.
For Cedar Rapids, these reduction goals translate to 66% total nitrogen and 45% total phosphorus. The utility also contributes to INRS non-point source goals by partnering with farmers and landowners upstream from Cedar Rapids.
“The city is keenly aware of its relationship with agriculture and resident industries,” Hershner says. “We are approaching our work on a watershed scale, looking at how to do things differently.”
Cedar Rapids was recognized nationally in 2019 by the U.S. Water Alliance, which presented the city with its U.S. Water Prize. Upon receiving the award, Hershner specifically thanked the Iowa Soybean Association for its involvement in the project since its beginning in 2015.
“Hershner has been a true friend to Iowa’s soybean farmers,” says Roger Wolf, ISA director of innovation and integrated solutions. “The Iowa Soybean Association is proud to recognize his leadership and the example it sets for additional collaboration and partnerships between rural and urban communities benefiting all Iowans.”
The Iowa Soybean Association (www.iasoybeans.com) is “Driven To Deliver” increased soybean demand through market development and new uses, farmer-focused research and results, timely information and know-how and policy initiatives enabling farmers and the industry to flourish. Founded in 1964 by farmers to serve farmers, ISA is governed by a board of 22 farmers to advocate on behalf of the state’s 40,000 soybean producers, including more than 12,000 ISA farmer members and industry stakeholders.