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New Partnership Will Fund Farm Conservation

Amy Mayer/IPR
Soil Health Partnership director Nick Goeser speaks during the launch of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative, which pledges to raise $4 million to support his program's work with on-farm conservation.

A group of agricultural companies, food manufacturers, retailers and environmental groups plant to raise money to further conservation practices in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative announced its launch at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Wednesday. Founding partners include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund.

Jill Kolling, senior director of sustainability at Cargill, says the first objective is to raise $4 million over the next five years to directly fund on-farm conservation. The money will be distributed through the Soil Health Partnership, a program of the National Corn Growers Association, and will initially focus on Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

"In these states we'll be working to optimize soil health practices and outcomes, reduce nutrient runoff into the rivers and streams of the Mississippi River Basin, maximize water conservation to reduce pressure on the Ogallala Aquifer and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Kolling says.

She adds that the Collaborative will also create a sustainable agriculture resource center to collate research in one place so farmers can review case scenarios from other farms. And the group will also work to foster connections between consumers and farmers. 

Larry Clemens, North American Agriculture Director for The Nature Conservancy, says his organization recognizes the considerable and increasing demand to produce food from Midwest fields. He says partnering in this way will help ensure that those needs can be met in a context that improves water quality and soil health. He says these are questions The Nature Conservancy has long been addressing.

"The Nature Conservancy is eager to help the Collaborative leverage our expertise to accelerate solutions that match the scale of the challenges we face in this region," Clemens says, "such as improving water quality across the Midwest and addressing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico."

Nutrient runoff from Midwest farm fields contributes to the Gulf dead zone and has been a concern for drinking water supplies in Des Moines and other communities.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames