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Iowa Agriculture Secretary Expects More State Funding For Water Quality

Amy Mayer / IPR
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey speaks at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

Iowa’s efforts to improve water quality could get a boost in the next legislative session.

At a meeting Monday in Des Moines to highlight partnerships among farmers, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies, Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says lawmakers would likely send more money to conservation efforts in the coming years.

“I’m very optimistic that we’ll find some more state resources this next session,” Northey says, “Exactly what that bill looks like I don’t know. But I think it’s likely to be hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 to 20 years for water quality investment.”

The Environmental Defense Fund, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn Growers and state and federal partners have taken different approaches to address Iowa’s water quality challenges, but Northey says thanks to them, many conservation practices are now being used. To reach nutrient reduction goals, though, he says significantly more acres need to be enrolled.

“One of the huge challenges for all of us is, how do we scale this?” he says. “How do we make the kind of difference that can impact a Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone? That can impact a Raccoon River, a Des Moines River and the nitrates coming down the river? That is always this tension that we all have.”

Northey says he’s confident the state’s farmers and landowners are doing the right things, and that a regulatory approach would hinder rather than further those efforts. But he says in addition to state funds, other investments will be necessary.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames