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Iowa Farmers Embrace Conservation, Despite Economic Downturn

Grain prices are low and production costs are high, but Iowa farmers are still focused on land stewardship. (Pixabay)
Grain prices are low and production costs are high, but Iowa farmers are still focused on land stewardship. (Pixabay)
August 10, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa -- These are challenging times for Iowa farmers, battling a global grain glut and high production costs, but that isn't stopping them from embracing a long-term conservation initiative.

A record number of farmers have signed up for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative, by planting cover crops or taking other steps to keep nutrients in the soil and improve water quality. Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, said it may not seem to make sense for farmers to put money into such a program with the farm economy in a downturn, but it's important to consider where farmers got their land.

"In many, many cases, they got it from their grandparents or their great-great-grandparents. And in many, many cases, they want their kids and grandkids to live there and farm there,” Vande Hoef said. "So, they want a sustainable system."

The State of Iowa chipped in $4.8 million in cost-sharing funds for the conservation program, while farmers invested $8.7 million.

In the past four years, more than 4,800 farms have participated in the initiative, and more than 2,600 are taking part this year. Vande Hoef said that amounts to a lot of Iowa farmland.

"So, this equals about 270,000 acres of protection; most of that would be cover crops,” he said.

The Iowa Water Quality Initiative was established in 2013. It brings together wastewater treatment officials, farmers and industrial organizations to address issues that include rural and urban storm water runoff.

More information is available at CleanWaterIowa.org.

Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA