Urging Iowa leaders to continue leadership on water quality

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative is working to advance public policies and programs that progress sustainable agriculture and scale the adoption of conservation practices.

The Collaborative recently sent a letter to the Iowa Legislature, Governor Terry Branstad, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey voicing appreciation for their leadership in addressing water quality and conservation within agricultural practices and landscapes. The letter also addresses the Collaborative’s considerations for how to continue to move efforts forward.

Full Letter Text
The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative (MRCC) is a diverse coalition working to expand agricultural solutions that protect air and water quality, and enhance soil health, while remaining committed to producing the food, fuel, and fiber the world needs. The Collaborative’s members — Cargill, Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Unilever, Walmart, and World Wildlife Fund — are working together to support farmer-led efforts to improve soil health, reduce nutrient losses into the rivers and streams of the Mississippi River Basin, and maximize water conservation.

The Collaborative is committed to working with key partners in the public, private, and NGO sectors to make measurable progress against the water-quality challenges facing Midwestern waterways. This includes supporting strategies that foster collaboration between urban and rural water users. The Collaborative’s work is specifically oriented to achieve the goals outlined in the Gulf Hypoxia Taskforce action plan, as well as state nutrient and water loss reduction plans — including Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Iowa and its peer states in the Upper Mississippi River Basin have made important progress on fostering farmer-led and private-sector strategies to improve water quality. The Collaborative thanks Iowa’s lawmakers for their dedication to supporting farmers and others in their efforts to improve water resources.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative urges state leaders to build on the State of Iowa’s progress on and dedication to funding conservation — and to continue find common ground and a way forward to investing in the strategies outlined in Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy; including reducing nutrient losses, funding infrastructure improvements, and conducting economic and technical feasibility studies.

Iowa lawmakers are debating several approaches to funding water quality efforts and resource allocation. The Collaborative urges lawmakers to use the following criteria to help guide working toward a final proposal that prioritizes investing in water quality and farmer-led conservation efforts, including:

  • Implementing the Nutrient Reduction Strategy — which lays out various approaches that require up to a $4 billion initial investment and an additional $77 million to $1.2 billion annually — through immediate, permanent, and dedicated funding for water quality and soil health
  • Reducing bureaucracy by routing funding through existing programs
  • Requiring transparency and accountability
  • Focusing on practices with multiple benefits, and additionally offers funding for quality of life initiatives such as lake restoration, habitat, and trails

Iowa leaders also should enhance and accelerate the work farmers are currently leading, including projects led by the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Soybean Association. Efforts by these commodity groups can also complement the resources and efforts the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative has brought to bear in Iowa and the other states in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. For example, MRCC members have committed to raising $4 million over five years to help accelerate the field-level work of the Soil Health Partnership, a farmer-led initiative of the National Corn Growers Association. The Collaborative is also working directly with farmers in key Iowa watersheds to test practices that will improve water quality that also align with farmers’ business needs.

Solving the problems that Iowa’s waterways face will take coordination, collaboration, and a variety of organizations working together to meet these shared challenges. We hope that Iowa  will continue to enhances the state’s commitment to these efforts and redouble their support for farmers who are leading the way on reducing nutrient losses and improving water quality.


Sarah Stokes Alexander
Program Director
On behalf of the Midwest Row Crop Collaborative

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