By definition, conservation means to protect, preserve, manage or care for a valued resource. To quote the great Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” Simply put, Iowa is blessed with some of the richest soils in the world. Add an adequate supply of fresh water and this fragile natural resource allows farmers to produce food that spans the globe, nourishing people from every continent in the world. In fact, Iowa’s rich soils enable farmers to produce more hogs, corn, soybeans, eggs and ethanol than any other state in the U.S.
In 1973, Iowa became the first state in the nation to fund a cost-share program to support soil conservation efforts on our private lands. Since that time, countless state and federal programs have been initiated and implemented on a voluntary basis by landowners, who spend millions of dollars annually to protect their soil and keep it out of the water. In November of 2012, a new effort was launched in Iowa to reduce nutrient loading to Iowa’s waters, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. This effort is called the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The strategy was developed by Iowa State University, the IDNR and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and is supported by the major ag groups around the state. This plan is based on sound science and the implementation of voluntary conservation practices.
Why voluntary? I for one believe landowners are in the best position to determine which practices work best on their farms and in their farming operations. Iowa is a very diverse state, and regulatory policies lack flexibility needed to implement the best practice in the best location in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Having said that, it’s important that landowners step up to the plate and learn what they can do to address runoff from their farms and take the next step and implement these practices. Success in implementing the strategy is critical if landowners want to continue making all their own management decisions on their land. The voluntary approach will be under the watchful eye of many around the nation, and it’s important that everyone do their part to reduce nutrient losses to our lakes, rivers and streams. In closing, as one of the world leaders in production agriculture, we as Iowans should continue to be national leaders in conservation.
If you would like to view the webinar or read the most current version of Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy, it can be found at www.nutrientstrategy.iastate.edu. If you have any questions about the strategy or conservation practices you can implement on your farm, feel free to contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District for technical or potential financial assistance.