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USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program Awards $9.5 Million For Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership

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USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program Awards $9.5 Million For Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership

Project will leverage $4.75 million in state funding and $33 million from the private sector to expand water quality efforts.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Sean McMahon, Executive Director of Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance (IAWA), announced on February 12 that the USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) has awarded $9.5 million to the Midwest Agriculture Water Quality Partnership. The Partnership is co-led by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and IAWA and involves 43 additional partners, including Houston Engineering, Inc. 

“This project will work with a diverse group of committed partners to engage farmers and help scale-up the water quality efforts in the targeted watersheds.  By working with ag organizations, businesses, retailers and other partners, we are building on momentum at the local level to address nutrient losses at the watershed scale,” Northey said.

“These funds will allow us to continue to engage the local agricultural community to deliver and demonstrate the technologies needed to improve water quality while protecting and maintaining Iowa’s tremendous agricultural productivity.”

As one of the RCPP partners, HEI’s decision support system work and watershed planning complements many of the partners’ interests and the key concepts that will be implemented by the project, including:
  • developing water quality metrics
  • providing enhanced geospatial products in a format for use within the fieldprint calculator 
  • providing watershed planning assistance, specifically targeted implementation plan development 
  • integrating technology
The RCPP project represents a potential breakthrough in watershed planning, including effective means of delivering practical conservation practices to agricultural producers.

“This project will help Iowa farmers to simultaneously improve their profitability and environmental performance,” said Sean McMahon of IAWA. “This effort is a true public-private partnership that will leverage the resources of our agribusiness partners to help their farmer customers adopt practices that will improve water quality.” 

The $9.5 million grant is the largest National Funding Pool award in the country this year.  These funds will be leveraged with $4.75 million in state funding ($2.5 from IDALS and $2.25 from Iowa DNR) and $33 million from the private sector. Farmers and landowners will be making additional investments that are not included in these amounts.

The project will build an innovative public-private collaboration focused on improving water quality, soil health and habitat for at-risk species. The partnership has brought together diverse stakeholders from multiple sectors committed to improving water quality as guided by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

The initiative is focused on engaging local partners, such as agribusinesses, ag retailers, seed companies and ag organizations, to deliver and demonstrate water quality practices and technologies proven to have a significant impact on reducing losses of nitrogen and phosphorus. These practices include cover crops, nutrient management, strip-till and no-till, drainage water management, bioreactors, saturated buffers and wetlands.

The initiative will be focused in targeted watersheds within the North Raccoon, South Skunk, Lake Red Rock, Middle Cedar and Upper Cedar watersheds.

“This project will help direct conservation practices to where they can be most effective to maximize water quality benefits,” McMahon added. “We credit NRCS and USDA for recognizing the importance of targeting Farm Bill resources to priority watersheds and landscapes. 

Want to Learn More?

The Full USDA RCPP Announcement

Iowa Water Quality Initiative

The Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance’s  (IAWA)

HEI's Technology Services

Source: IAWA press release on February 12, 2016