The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is asking lawmakers to set aside enough money to help close the agricultural drainage wells that remain in the state as well as more money for grants to farmers for soil and water conservation projects.
Matt Steinfeld, a lobbyist for the Iowa Farm Bureau, says the organization believes part of the state’s 750 million dollar surplus should be spent on these kind programs. “As the 2014 session begins and the governor and legislature determine how the ending fund balance should be spent, Farm Bureau members will again encourage our leaders to use this money for one-time expenditures, as well as investments in water and soil conservation programs,” Steinfeld says.
In the current year the state is spending $10-million on grants to farmers for manure and farm chemical management projects. Steinfeld says there’s an $18.5- million backlog of requests for state grants that finance farm field structures, like terraces, that conserve soil and improve water quality.
“All of these programs operate on a cost-share basis, and these funds will all be matched at least dollar-for-dollar by farmers all across the state,” he says.
Since 1997 the State of Iowa has been providing money to farmers who agree to close ag drainage wells. Most of these farm field wells are in north central Iowa, built in the early 1900s to drain surface water off the farmland, but the problem is the wells drain into underground aquifers, sending soil as well as farm chemical run-off into the aquifers. In 1998 state experts counted the number of ag drainage wells in Iowa and they found 292 in existence. Since then the state budget for covering up to 75 percent of the cost of closing these wells has skyrocketed.
There are 12 wells that are being closed now using previously appropriated funds. There are another 37 wells left after that and they are requesting funding to close 8 of those wells.