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Source: Iowa Soybean Association news release

On-farm innovation developed and implemented by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is helping farmers improve production and water quality.

The assessment, made by Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey at ISA's On-Farm Network® Conference in Ames last week, coincides with growing interest in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy funded last year by the Iowa Legislature. The state's ag leader said farmers play a key role in the success of water quality improvement efforts underway.

"The strategy is built on farmers wanting to become better and to reduce their environmental impact, which is also a goal of the On-Farm Network," said Northey, who farms near Spirit Lake. "We have many watershed projects and tools being implemented across the state allowing farmers to learn from each other, build on that knowledge and take their production and conservation efforts to the next level."

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, developed by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University, seeks to reduce nitrogen and phosphorous loads to Iowa's waters and the Gulf of Mexico from point and non-point sources by at least 45 percent. It's supported by the ISA and other farm and environmental stakeholders.

Momentum behind the strategy is growing, Northey said. Last fall, nearly $3 million in cost-share funds were snapped up by nearly 1,100 farmers and landowners to adopt water quality improvement practices --- cover crops, conservation tillage and nitrogen stabilization --- on nearly 120,000 acres.

More recently, $4.16 million was provided for projects in targeted priority watersheds throughout Iowa. Eight watersheds were selected from 17 applications and an additional $8 million-plus in partner and landowner matches were secured. A second request for applications is open through March 31.

"There's a strong commitment among many partners, including the Iowa Soybean Association, to identify and deploy practices that can make a difference in these watersheds," Northey said.

"We have a limited amount of cost share dollars for what we're trying to accomplish. So we want to get a saturation of activities in smaller watersheds so we can monitor results and determine if they can be applied on a broader scale."

Sharing information about "farmer champions" who have embraced water quality improvement practices have increased awareness of the strategy, Northey said. So has the endorsement of Gov. Terry Branstad and the Iowa Legislature.

"Our governor is absolutely supportive of the strategy, as are both chambers," Northey said. "They're excited to see the work that's being done and the progress that's being made. No one is spending time blaming each other. It's about all folks addressing water quality rather than using others as an excuse not to engage."

Success won't be achieved overnight, Northey said, but farmers and industry stakeholders are committed to continuous improvement and progress.

"There will always be those who think agriculture cannot be successful on this strategy," Northey added. "Our job is to overwhelm that argument by showing and demonstrating what we're doing and that we're serious about results."

For more information about ISA's On-Farm Network, conference presentations, field trial results or learn how to participate in trials, go to

To learn more about ISA, go to

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