State officials have spent $24,000 on a new website with information about conservation practices for farmers. It’s part of the state’s voluntary approach to reducing nitrate and phosphorous levels in Iowa lakes and waterways. Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey says each farm is different and what may work for one farm may not be best for another.
“This website really helps get more information out about what kinds of things can be done out there,” Northey says. “There’s a lot of farmers in this state and it’s important to get the word out and have it be very accessible.”
According to Governor Terry Branstad, 90 percent of Iowa farmers use conservation practices on their land.
“Ninety percent participation is a good indication of tremendous interest among farmers,” Branstad says. “Now, we want to encourage the other 10 percent also to participate.”
Nitrate levels in many Iowa drinking water systems were abnormally high this year due to heavy spring rains that washed farm chemicals off barren fields. The governor says there’s no way to control the weather.
“When you have these severe situations and excess rain, especially in the springtime before the crops are growing, you’re going to have these kind of problems,” Branstad says. “I don’t think you can ever assure people that that won’t happen.”
About 1100 Iowa farmers recently applied for almost $3 million in state grants to help finance conservation measures on about 120,000 acres of Iowa farmground. Northey says Iowa’s 90,000 farmers can log onto the new website and get free information about farming practices and structures that can reduce farm chemical run-off.
“You have some very flat farms out there that don’t require any kind of erosion control, others that have grass waterways in them,” Northey says, “certainly some rolling land out there that certainly need some practices.”
The just-launched www.cleanwateriowa.org includes information about ways cities and residents in urban areas can reduce water pollution, too. Iowa Department of Natural Resources director Chuck Gipp says there’s information for businesses that generate waste water as well.
“A lot of people do want to do the right thing to preserve water quality and protect the resource that we do have, but they really don’t know how to go about that,” Gipp says.
Gipp’s agency recently hired three new inspectors to conduct in-person assessments of large-scale livestock facilities. He says four other inspectors will be hired soon. The recent agreement state officials struck with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls for on-site inspections of all large-scale livestock confinements.
Gipp, Northey and Branstad made their comments during the governor’s weekly news conference.
AUDIO of Branstad’s October 28th news conference