DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today thanked Gov. Branstad and the Iowa Legislature for their strong support for a voluntary, science-based approach to improving water quality. Thanks to the work of the Governor and Legislature, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will receive an additional $22.4 million in fiscal 2014 to support conservation and water quality improvements in Iowa.
“The tremendous support from the Governor and legislators for the voluntary, science-based approach to improving water quality here in Iowa and downstream is very exciting,” Northey said. “Farmers take great pride in caring for the air, soil and water, and these funds will provide vital assistance as they seek to do an even better job keeping nutrients on our land and out of our rivers, lakes and streams.”
Before the recently completed legislative session Northey had requested $2.4 million for an agriculture water quality initiative in fiscal 2014 and $4.4 million for the initiative in 2015. Branstad had supported those requests in his budget proposal to the Legislature. These funds will be used to provide cost share funds for practices and structures known to improve water quality, education and outreach to farmers about the initiative and to hire a water quality coordinator for the Department.
The Legislature approved the requested funding and provided an additional $10 million in one-time funding to be used over the next five years to support science-based water quality practices. Of that funding, 70 percent is to be used in targeted watersheds and 30 percent can be used for water quality practices statewide.
The Department will also receive an additional $7 million one-time appropriation that can be used over the next five years to help address the backlog of state soil conservation cost-share projects. Cost share receives an annual appropriation of $6.7 million, but the Department currently has applications for more than $20 million in assistance. All funds are matched by the landowner to support construction.
The legislature also approved $3 million to the Watershed Improvement Review Board (WIRB) for voluntary watershed projects.
The Department again received $1.62 million this year to support the closure of agriculture drainage wells. This appropriation will allow the Department to finish closing 12 wells and bring the total number of closed wells to 262.
Additionally, the Legislature appropriated $1.5 million to start a nutrient management research center at Iowa State University that will conduct ongoing research on practices farmers can use to reduce nutrient losses.
Outside of water quality, the Department received a $500,000 increase in its general fund appropriation to $17.58 million. These funds will be used to meet mandatory staffing cost increases and potentially refill some of the 70 positions lost over the last 5 years.