Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance in field

IAWA Business Council working together for water quality

October 14, 2022 | Jeff Hutton

Improving water quality in the state without sacrificing profitability for Iowa’s farmers.

That’s at the heart of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA) and its 20-member business council, all of whom are committed to substantive changes that have and will continue to make positive differences statewide.

But how do you make that happen?

Moving the needle

“IAWA Business Council members implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy in a number of important ways,” says IAWA Executive Director Sean McMahon. “That includes assisting farmers improve their resource use efficiency. Agribusinesses play an integral role in improving water quality by helping producers use less fertilizer and crop protection products per bushel of corn and soybeans produced.”

Indeed, two of those council members, say they are walking side by side with IAWA on this important journey.

Dave Schwartz is vice president for strategic retail accounts for Verdesian Life Sciences, a company advancing plant health and nutrition through the development of nutrient management and efficiency technologies. Nutritionals and micronutrients, seed treatments, inoculants, crop health chemistry and biologicals, as well as soil surfactants are part of the Verdesian portfolio.

Schwartz says the company is committed to the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework: Using the right fertilizer at the right rate, time and in the right place.

“We’re helping people to understand there are better ways to farm,” he says.

The company’s efforts in nutrient loss reduction and IAWA’s mission to protect water resources, led Schwartz and Verdesian to partner with IAWA. Verdesian was the first company that committed to being a part of the council.

“I’ve enjoyed being around the table and talking with others,” Schwartz says.

Schwartz believes IAWA, Verdesian and others have moved the needle on nutrient management and its mission to protect natural resources.

“We’ve significantly impacted the amount of runoff in Iowa’s farm fields,” he says. “Being a part of this effort has been great. Together, we’re trying to make Iowa the centerpiece of water quality.”

Enthusiasm for the future

Like Schwartz, Mitchell Hora, CEO of Continuum Ag, says being a part of the IAWA Business Council is truly a simpatico relationship.

“Our mission is help family farms profit from improving their soil health and that directly results in positive outcomes for water quality, says Hora, whose company started as a consulting firm and has now scaled to an agronomic tech company providing soil, fertility and regenerative ag recommendations. The company evolved by launching its TopSoil Tool, which helps producers in 38 states and 16 countries take a more comprehensive approach to sustainable agriculture systems.

Being a part of the IAWA Business Council allows Hora’s company to work alongside those with the same enthusiasm and vision, including some of the biggest players in Iowa agriculture. Sustainable practices begin on his family farm in Washington County.

“I’ve seen it firsthand,” Hora says. “We’ve been practicing no-till since 1978 and implementing cover crops since 2013. I’ve seen the improvements on my seventh-generation farm. We know we can improve our profitability, improve our year-to-year resiliency, reduce carbon and improve water quality.”

The IAWA Business Council believes more farms across Iowa can do these things and become more profitable while improving water quality.

Making it happen

Hora and Schwartz have seen water quality efforts by other good organizations but say IAWA is at the forefront.

“IAWA goes to the frontline to oversee projects, educate and inform policymakers and enable actual change,” Hora says. “IAWA has been successful.”

McMahon says the council is eyeing long-term, positive change on the farm.

“Ag retailers, farmer-owned cooperatives, fertilizer companies, equipment companies, seed companies, crop protection companies and others have an important role to play in helping farmers improve return on investment and resource use efficiency by reducing inputs,” he says. “It’s exciting to see so many members of the IAWA Business Council making positive impacts in improving farmer profitability and water quality. Improving nitrogen use efficiency and fertilizer management also directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

For Schwartz, who also farms, it’s simple what Verdesian, the other council members and IAWA are doing:

“We’re leading this charge and getting people to realize there are better ways to do it,” he says. “It’s gratifying to share that with others.”