OPINION

Committed to water quality success

Good water is clean water, and Iowa farmers are personally vested in continuously improving environmental performance. The Iowa Soybean Association is proud to be a committed partner in this effort, benefiting our state today and for future generations.

Iowa’s visionary soybean farmers launched the ISA’s Environmental Programs & Services nearly a decade ago. Since its creation, they’ve committed nearly $20 million to work aggressively with farmers and private and public partners to assess, develop and implement science-based practices and advance projects proven to have environmental benefits.

This investment is advancing watershed-based projects that increase the use of conservation tillage, cover crops and nutrient management. It’s also spurring the installation of below-surface nitrate removal systems (also called bioreactors) and oxbow restorations.

A key feature of ISA’s work involves monitoring the response of changing management practices.

Farmers want to know the impact of their actions in terms of agronomics and on our natural resources. Data drives farmer adoption of practices that perform more effectively and improve their bottom line.

Farmers have the opportunity to participate in ISA’s extensive On-Farm Network, which uses precision ag tools and methodologies to evaluate management system performance. We provide water monitoring services for watersheds and farmers with analysis conducted at our certified water laboratory in Ankeny.

This information builds credibility with farmers and other watershed stakeholders.

The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy — the most significant catalyst for improving environmental performance in a generation — is a timely example of advancing progress on water quality.

Launched last year, the science-based initiative seeks to reduce nitrate and phosphorous loads in Iowa waterways by 45 percent from point and nonpoint sources.

The ISA played a key role in its formation working with agencies, researchers and the community to advance nutrient reduction strategies that ultimately impact water quality.

But Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy is just the beginning. Accelerating the pace and scale of water quality improvements in Iowa is the mission of the Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance launched last month by ag and environmental stakeholders.

Created and funded by the ISA, Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Pork Producers Association, the alliance will increase farmer awareness of the nutrient reduction strategy and their adoption of science-based practices benefiting water quality.

It also will leverage private partnerships and investments to ramp up public support. This is key because the nutrient reduction strategy is in its early implementation.

Generations ago, much of the upper Midwest was drained to make the land productive. The benefits to human health and prosperity have been unprecedented.

Now, we must reduce nutrient transport from our cropping systems by optimizing in- and edge-of-field practices that build organic matter, improve water holding capacity and treat water leaving our landscapes.

The ISA embraces both the challenge and opportunity of this historic undertaking. The farm community acknowledges its role in improving our natural resources and is committed to verifying real progress and results.

l Roger Wolf is Director of Environmental Programs & Services at the Iowa Soybean Association. Comments: rwolf@iasoybeans.com.

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