(Photos by Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)
Dubuque County farmers explain why they chose The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund
August 19, 2021 | Joseph Hopper
Jeff Pape, Dyersville
Agriculture is a legacy to Jeff Pape. The farm he grew up on near Dyersville has been in the family for 170 years. Pape’s grandfather was conservation-minded, planting groves of trees in the area for wildlife and teaching his descendants to work the ground while minding the waterways. Pape continues the family passion for conservation and is enrolled in The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund.
The Dubuque County farmer is no stranger to the finer points of conservation. No-tilling for more than two decades, Pape also played a key role in the effort which would become the Hewitt Creek Watershed, the first farmer-led watershed in the state and is a farmer member of the Iowa Soybean Association.
“If there’s something we can do to help the environment we try to do it, but when times are lean like the last three or four years, there’s not room (financially) left for those projects,” Pape says.
Enrolling in The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, which provides financial incentives directly to farmers who transition to on-farm conservation practices that yield positive environmental outcomes like carbon sequestration and water quality improvement, makes environmental gains more manageable in the leaner years, he says.
“We know we still need to be doing something and to have some type of economic gain there to help us do those, it’s an important thing for us as producers,” Pape says.
Communication is a key component of program participation, he says, and farmers would rather spend their time in the fields than doing paperwork. He praised the Outcomes Fund’s local partner, Dubuque County Coordinator Zach Timm for his work communicating and coordinating with farmers.
“It takes a good coordinator, somebody to be out there with the people, that they can talk to and understand, to help them with the paper process,” Pape says.
Pape appreciated the public-private dynamic at play in the program, connecting rural citizens and urban citizens. The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund has built a partnership with Dubuque County, as well as Iowa municipalities like the cities of Ames and Cedar Rapids.
“It’s a little bit thinking out of the box,” Pape says. “For these cities that have waste treatment plants and so forth that may be getting dated, the cost, if we can help out here in the country by reducing our load, it helps everyone downstream.”
The conservation practices established through farmers enrolling in The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund will make a positive difference as the region and state work to mitigate flood risks and improve water quality.
“I do see the water quality issue and the flood issue becoming a higher concern over the years to come,” Pape says. “I do believe the things that we’re doing with the Outcomes Fund, especially cover crops, etc., are going to be a great asset to our streams. The other side of it is when we start promoting no-till and so forth, we’re going to see a better infiltration of water.”
Wayne Demmer, Epworth
The legacy of farming is important to Wayne Demmer of Epworth. The Dubuque County farmer and former county supervisor says conservation efforts taking root in Dubuque County and Iowa such as cover crops are fulfilling the old saying that “you’re supposed to leave the land better for your next generation.” In addition to the benefit of farmers being rewarded for their conservation practices, the value of programs like The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund includes showing farmers and the public at large the conservation work taking place in their fields.
“We’ve got a lot of farmers in Dubuque County who have been doing this a long time and I think we have a great potential to keep adding people to it,” Demmer says.
Terry Meyer, Dyersville
Terry Meyer of Dyersville says agriculture is a way of life: planting, raising livestock and being a good steward of the land. Using cover crops in his fields, Meyer says area farmers have taken an interest in his conservation practices and he’s been fielding questions about his efforts.
The Dubuque County farmer said he liked the emerging carbon market’s ability to reward farmers for their conservation efforts. He said signing up to enroll in The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund was simple.
“It takes a little time to get your fields all mapped out but it was an easy process getting into it,” Meyer says.
He continued, “It’s easy to do, you might as well take a shot at it and see where you end up. If you’ve got any questions just ask or go to their Soil and Water Outcomes Fund website. There’s a lot of good information and they’re really willing to help you out.”
Learn more about The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund.