Farmers “Starving For Data” About Water Quality Practices

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Northwest Iowa — Water quality issues are of concern to area farmers, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has proposed a water quality bill for the upcoming legislative session.  The Governor says if legislators adopt his water quality proposal in 2017, there will be more money spent to test waterways, to see if nitrate levels are declining.

Branstad says Iowa State University and the University of Iowa have projects that evaluate structures and practices designed to keep farm chemicals out of the state’s rivers and lakes. A farmer, and former President of the Iowa Pork Producers, says he’ll install a second structure to divert surface water draining off his farm this fall. John Weber says the data from the first “saturated buffer” he has on his farm shows it’s working to ensure nitrates aren’t reaching the Cedar River Watershed.

Weber is planting cover crops on 800 acres of corn and soybean fields. He has abandoned his previous practice of applying all his nitrogen fertilizer in the fall. Instead, Weber applies a third of it in the fall, a third in the early spring and then a third of it several weeks later when the crop needs nitrogen the most. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says there’s a market for new methods of measuring water quality.

Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who farms near Spirit Lake, says there are currently 45 “demonstration projects” underway around the state to show how nitrogen and phosphorus run-off can be reduced by land-management practices.

Northey, Reynolds, Weber and Branstad spoke at a news conference this (Monday) morning that was staged in the Iowa State Fair’s Agriculture Building.

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