Reviews Mixed As The Iowa Plan To Cut Nutrient Runoff Reaches 10 Years

Statewide Iowa — As Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy reaches the 10-year mark, the state’s ag secretary says there are signs of momentum for conservation, even if the state is far from the mark on water quality.

The most recent data shows an uptick in cover crops on Iowa farmland, nearly 3 million acres, but that’s only about a quarter of what is recommended in the strategy, according to Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig.

He says conservation is accelerating as we head into the strategy’s second decade.

The Nutrient Reduction Strategy takes a voluntary approach to reduce nitrates from farm runoff into lakes and rivers. Iowa State University data shows a rise in cover crops and areas draining into nitrate removal structures, but Alicia Vasto at the Iowa Environmental Council says the scale of change is small and has yet to show in overall water quality. Vasto faults the strategy for not setting specific benchmarks over the last decade.

Meanwhile, Naig points to programs like “Batch and Build” in Polk County as a sign of positive momentum. The county has scaled up construction of farm conservation projects by planning and funding dozens of at a time.