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Agriculture

Iowa farmers received $83 million in conservation assistance this year

Annual ryegrass protects this Tama County crop field from erosion following harvest. Cover crops were the most adopted conservation practice through NRCS Farm Bill programs in Iowa for the 8th consecutive year.
NRCS
Annual ryegrass protects this Tama County crop field from erosion following harvest. Cover crops were the most adopted conservation practice through NRCS Farm Bill programs in Iowa for the 8th consecutive year.

Iowa farmers used a record of $83 million dollars in conservation assistance this fiscal year, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in a report this week.

Disaster recovery assistance for flooding and wind storms helped drive the increased spending in the state. The Iowa NRCS funded efforts to help landowners impacted by the 2019 flooding alongside the Missouri River and the August 2020 Derecho.

Iowa conservationist for the NRCS Jon Hubbert said the conservation assistance is vital to investing in long-term sustainability of the land.

“We’re making sure we’re taking that long vision,” Hubbert said. “We’re making sure we can produce not only a crop for today, but a crop for tomorrow. Not only a crop for the current generation, but for future generations.”

Derecho Damage Marshall County
Grant Gerlock
The derecho knocked over standing corn, but unevenly impacted fields like this one in Marshall County.

The government bought over $25 million in permanent land easements in floodplains from farmers across Iowa, whose land had been damaged by flooding within the previous year. On each of the 4,011 acres purchased, the NCRS aimed to restore the land and reestablish native vegetation.

The agency also provided $1.89 million dollars in emergency funding to help farmers whose crops or properties were damaged by the August derecho of 2020. Iowa farmers are estimated to have lost millions of dollars in the powerful wind-storm.

The federal funding helped pay to plant cover crops for downed corn and replacement of damaged roofs on buildings. In total, the money aided 143 farmers over 34, 918 acres of land.

This year’s conservation funding surpassed the previous highest spending year in 2018 by more than $9 million. The agency did not include spending by the Conservation Reserve Program, whose aim is to “to reestablish valuable land cover to help improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat.”

“There’s a lot of progress noted within these numbers,” Hubbert said. “We have a lot of interest in conservation, not only from producers but from partnership organizations across Iowa.”

Conservation assistance spanned nearly 323,000 acres. Hubbert said the expanded participation in federal conservation programs shows the state’s dedication to protecting its land.

“There’s a deep love of the land and the realization that the wealth of Iowa is in its soil. The producers who farm here, they know that. They care about what they are doing to the land and in many cases they’re stepping up to take aggressive measures to protect it,” Hubbert said.

“We’re making sure we can produce not only a crop for today, but a crop for tomorrow. Not only a crop for the current generation, but for future generations.”
Jon Hubbert, Iowa Conservationist

Farmers in Muscatine, Howard and Linn counties led the state in use of funding and acres treated. In Howard County alone, producers received nearly $2 million dollars to help treat natural resources.

Hubbert said he looked forward to seeing how much they can continue to put into farmers and conservation efforts next year, although he’s not sure this year can be beat.

“Someday in your life you’re going to need a doctor, a pastor, a lawyer. But, three times a day you’re going to need a farmer.”