A Dubuque County field in July

(Photo credit: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Soil and Water Outcomes Fund takes root in Dubuque County

July 8, 2021 | Joseph Hopper

A lot has happened in one year’s time. The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, founded in 2020, is not only growing its footprint in 2021 — now at more than 80,000 acres in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois — but its partnerships too.

The fund compensates farmers for positive environmental outcomes brought about by the conservation practices implemented on their farms. The outcomes, such as enhanced water quality and carbon sequestration in soil, are independently measured, verified and sold to customers.

It’s led to greater partnerships across the public and private sectors, including with municipalities like the cities of Ames, Cedar Rapids, and Dubuque County. The partnership between Soil and Water Outcomes Fund and Dubuque County first began a year ago. AgOutcomes Executive Vice President Adam Kiel says the progress being made in Dubuque County is a model for others in the state.

“We really commend the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors and the residents of Dubuque County for engaging in this first-of-a-kind transaction around environmental outcomes and specifically water quality improvement,” says Kiel. “It’s the kind of partnership that we think is needed across more of Iowa and more of the Midwest in order to achieve water quality improvement and we hope we can continue the partnership and grow more acres and more farmers in Dubuque County.”

“The partnership has been outstanding,” Dubuque County Supervisor Harley Pothoff says. “I really think things are moving forward.”

Farmer participation

Dubuque County farmers enrolled in The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund said the program was easy to participate in, understand, had a great coordinator in Zach Timm, Dubuque County conservation agronomist; and praised the public-private dynamic at play supporting farmers for their conservation efforts.

“It’s a plus to many farmers, the extra income for the extra work,” says Wayne Demmer, a farmer near Epworth and a former Dubuque County supervisor.

ISA farmer member Jeff Pape (Photo credit: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)


ISA farmer member Jeff Pape, who farms near Dyersville, agrees.


“It’s a little bit thinking outside the box, something that’s not been done before,” Pape says. “It makes a great partnership when we can involve the county level with the farm level.”

In its first year of implementation, The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund provided financial incentives to farmers implementing conservation practices across 9,500 acres of Iowa cropland, yielding the following outcomes:

  • Sequestered 6,447 metric tons of carbon - the equivalent of taking 1,393 cars off the road for a year 
  • Improved downstream water quality for communities by reducing 170,000 lbs of nitrogen (a 41% median reduction from typical loading rates) and 14,250 lbs of phosphorus (a 67% median reduction from typical loading rates) from entering waterways
  • Farmers were paid $35-$40 per acre to implement sustainable agricultural practices


The Soil and Water Outcomes Fund is a partnership of AgOutcomes, a subsidiary of the Iowa Soybean Association, and ReHarvest Partners, a subsidiary of Quantified Ventures. AgOutcomes leads the agronomic and farmer relations elements of the operation and ReHarvest Partners manages the financial and contracting aspects of the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund. Farmers interested in enrollment can visit theoutcomesfund.com.