Jeff Lucas named IAWA Executive Director

(Photo: Jeff Lucas)

IAWA welcomes new executive director

July 3, 2024 | Jeff Hutton

For Jeff Lucas, water quality is about education. And education, he says, means everyone should have a seat at the table.

Lucas was recently named as the new executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA), an organization created 10 years ago following the release of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (INRS), which was implemented a year earlier. The Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association were founding members of IAWA.

Lucas says he wants to continue IAWA’s work in providing opportunities for reducing nutrients in surface water from both point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including agricultural operations and urban areas, in a scientific, reasonable and cost-effective manner.

Service to others

The new IAWA executive director has spent the last few years in Idaho and Tennessee running a non-profit that raised beef cattle for food banks and food pantries; worked as a marketing director at a substance abuse treatment center; and most recently, as the COO of a livestock trailer manufacturer. However, Lucas is an Iowan at heart.

A native of Fort Madison and a graduate of Iowa State University, Lucas is  excited about returning to the state and working alongside those who are making a difference in protecting Iowa’s water resources.

“I’ve always had a servant's heart and I want to be of help to farmers because they are the greatest asset in the world and they feed all of us,” he says. “We have to take care of them and work with them, being mindful we want to protect the resources they are using to achieve the goal of feeding more people.”

Lucas says IAWA allows for farmers, businesses, conservationists, both the public and private sector and everyday Iowans to come together.

“This is so intriguing to me, because (IAWA) is like the middleman connecting the dots for greater water quality,” he says. “We’re a full compass resource for everybody who has a hand in agriculture when it comes to water quality.”


Lucas says there are several things he wants to push forward to continue IAWA’s mission of increasing the pace and scale of farmer-led efforts to improve water quality in Iowa.

“I want to help build our team back up while making an even larger impact, getting more businesspeople involved and educating them about what we do,” he says.

As a bass fisherman enthusiast, Lucas says he wants to reach out to outdoors enthusiasts and the general public and incorporate their concerns into IAWA.

“I want everybody to understand how this full circle works from the farmer taking care of water which impact the fish at Saylorville Lake to the water that comes from the tap in Ankeny that someone cooks with, bathes and drinks,” he says.

Lucas is excited about ways IAWA can branch out to collaborate with those outside of agriculture so everyone can benefit from farming.

“We’re all beneficiaries of farmers who are doing the right thing,” he says. “IAWA wants to spread the awareness of what farmers are doing right for conservation.”

While it’s important that IAWA encourages and educates farmers who may not be engaged in conservation practices now, it’s just as critical to sing the praises of those in agriculture who are making a difference with water quality.


Lucas views his role as an educator.  That means engaging younger farmers with implementing conservation practices like cover crops and saturated buffers and getting them excited about the results.

“It’s about taking care of your neighbors and getting the public to understand why these practices are important,” he says. “At the end of the day, we’re here to assist farmers to allow them to farm without hindering resources like clean water which affects everybody.”

Growing up in Fort Madison along the Mississippi River, Lucas recalls the impact runoff from pesticides and fertilizers can have on water quality, especially during flooding and heavy rainfall incidents that took place along the river.

“The INRS over the years has helped to bring to light what can happen,” he says. “At IAWA, we’re trying to partner farmers with businesses, conservation agencies and others and bringing them to the table as an educational setting vs. a mandated and regulated setting. IAWA is playing a vital role in making sure everyone knows the more we can educate, the less regulations and red tape farmers are going to have to deal with.”

Bridging the gaps

Lucas’ biggest goal at IAWA is for people who live in urban areas to understand how important the job Iowa farmers are doing.

“This is a huge deal because there is a big distance between the ag world and the urban world and I think we need to bring them together,” he says.

Having lived in Tennessee and Idaho, Lucas says “everyone looks to Iowa on how to do things right. I want to grow IAWA as an example of what we can do together. We want to build relationships out there to make that difference and become the No. 1 resource everybody looks to.”

So as Lucas and his family make their way back to Iowa, he’s appreciative that for countless years, farmers have fed and fueled the nation with their hands in the soil and heart in the job.

Farmers, he says, are the ones who are making a difference improving Iowa’s water quality and IAWA must continue to provide the support and coordination to get it done.