01.05.21, DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig today announced the recipients of the 2021 planning and development grants funded through the state’s Water Quality Initiative. More than $2.6 million are being awarded to support four projects that help advance the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and soil health and water quality efforts across the state.

“We continue to see the number of Iowa farmers, landowners and communities engaged in conservation activities increase every year,” said Secretary Naig. “Through these projects, we can connect with more partners and explore new approaches to encourage even more individuals to adopt the soil health and water quality practices outlined in the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. We’ll continue working with our public and private partners to build on successes in other watersheds and continue scaling up the number of conservation practices in both rural and urban areas.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship approved funding for the following conservation projects:

Soil and Water Outcomes Project – Ag Technology and Environmental Stewardship Foundation

Grant award: $1,500,000

This public-private partnership project establishes a new performance-based incentive program to encourage farmers and landowners to adopt conservation practices. Project leaders are working with individual farmers and landowners to implement conservation practices in their fields and structure an incentive program around the outcomes these changes provide. This project demonstrates a market-based approach to environmental performance.

Wetland Planning and Development to Improve Iowa’s Water Quality – Ducks Unlimited

Grant award: $978,844

This project highlights the importance of public and private partners working together to accelerate the pace at which farmers and landowners are building nutrient-reducing wetlands in priority watersheds. Ducks Unlimited is providing technical assistance, including locating prospective wetland sites in the North Raccoon, Boone and South Skunk River basins, contacting landowners, designing sites, and aligning potential funding sources to build more wetlands for water quality and habitat improvement.

Des Moines Lobe Wetlands Initiative – Iowa Nutrient Research and Education Council (INREC)

Grant award: $140,700

INREC is working with local leaders and engineers in seven counties to plan and design water quality wetland sites. This expands INREC’s current service offerings to make technical assistance available to farmers and landowners in four new counties (11 counties total). This project is part of a focused effort to encourage farmers and landowners to voluntarily integrate wetlands on private lands to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

Volga Lake and Frog Hollow Watershed Implementation Plan – Fayette Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)

Grant award: $30,000

The Fayette Soil and Water Conservation District is developing a comprehensive conservation plan for the Volga Lake and Frog Hollow watersheds in Fayette County. The SWCD will use remote sensing and GIS tools to map the terrain and identify prospective locations for soil health and water quality best management practices. This helps the SWCD engage landowners of the prospective conservation project sites and prioritize funding to install practices in the watershed.

Since the Water Quality Initiative began in 2013, the Iowa Department of Agriculture has awarded funding to support 50 planning, development and implementation projects and 67 urban water quality improvement projects.

To learn about the state’s ongoing soil health and water quality improvement efforts, visit cleanwateriowa.org. To get involved, Iowans can contact the Soil and Water Conservation District office in their counties.