Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Announces Partnership to Expand Conservation Agronomist Network
Working in priority watersheds, conservation agronomists assist farmers and landowners with implementing proven water quality and conservation practices
DES MOINES, Iowa (Mar. 8, 2023) – The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced a new partnership to expand the network of conservation agronomists working with Iowa farmers and landowners across the state. Conservation agronomists are professionals who assist farmers with agronomic production decisions while also providing expertise about incorporating conservation and water quality practices onto their land.
“Conservation agronomists serve as trusted advisers to Iowa farmers and landowners and help to identify, plan, and implement proven water quality and soil conservation practices,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “As we scale up and accelerate our statewide water quality efforts, innovative public-private partnerships like this will get more practices in place and move us closer toward achieving our Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals.”
Agriculture’s Clean Water Alliance (ACWA), based in Ankeny and affiliated with the Iowa Soybean Association, launched the network of conservation agronomists in August of 2020. ACWA’s existing funding model has thus far depended on support from a variety of sources, including Iowa ag retailers and cooperatives which make up the membership of ACWA. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship will utilize over $2 million in public funding, received from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Gulf Hypoxia Program, to extend the duration of three conservation agronomist positions and deploy two additional positions. Additional funding support for the network will continue from ACWA members.
Enhancements to the existing network will:
- Strengthen the coordination and project development between conservation agronomists, ag retailers, watershed coordinators and other conservation professionals to increase the adoption of practices.
- Connect farmers and landowners with technical and financial assistance to install priority in-field (cover crops, reduced tillage, etc.) practices and edge-of-field (saturated buffers, bioreactors, oxbows, water quality wetlands, etc.) practices.
- Continue to grow ag retail engagement in conservation and nutrient reduction practices to supplement agronomic and production expertise.
- Emphasize outreach efforts and highlight opportunities for individuals within priority watersheds to participate, especially with more dedicated water funding being made available.
- Support the implementation of practices that will lead to an estimated reduction of 2 million pounds of nitrogen and 57,000 pounds of phosphorus.
The eight priority watersheds include the North Raccoon River, Boone River, Floyd River, East and West Nishnabotna Rivers, Turkey River, Middle Cedar River, South Skunk River and Skunk River.
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s funding for this partnership is in place through September 30, 2026.