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Consider conservation needs on the farm and in town this spring

Toledo Chronicle • Guest View

May 3, 2011
By Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
As spring enters full swing farmers and gardeners alike are excited to kick-off the growing season and plant what will hopefully be a bountiful crop.

Spring also presents an opportunity to review the conservation needs on your land, whether it is a farm, acreage or an urban lot in a city or small town.

Iowa gets an average of around 35 inches of rain each year, a little less in the Northwest and more in the Southeast, and that means each of us will receive about three feet of water on our property over the course of the year. Our Department is available to help landowners of all size manage that water to better protect the precious natural resources in our state.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Division of Soil Conservation, partnering with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, has been working with farmers and landowners for 70 years to help them design and install conservation practices that help prevent erosion and protect water quality.

You can visit your local USDA Service Center to learn more about the assistance, both technical and financial, available through the Department’s Division of Soil Conservation to support the installation of a wide variety of conservation practices.

These practices, such as terraces, filter strips, grass waterways, buffers, etc., are designed to prevent rainwater from running off and carrying soil and other pollutants into our river, lakes and streams.

In recent years, the Department has also created an urban conservation program that takes the lessons we have learned from that 70 years of working with farmers and landowners and applies them to our urban areas.

Our towns and cities also get rain and we have found that parking lots, streets and yards can also generate runoff that impacts the water quality in our state and can contribute to flood flows, especially in smaller urban streams with a significant amount of development in their watersheds.

So, we now have five urban conservationists that work with homeowners, developers, businesses and community leaders across the state. They help educate them about strategies and practices that can be installed so that rainwater movement is slowed down and allowed to infiltrate into the ground rather than run-off and carry any pollutants with it.

They show how rain gardens, bioretention cells, soil quality restoration, native landscaping, permeable pavement and other practices can be used in new construction or made to work with existing infrastructure.

They have also created a “Rainscaping Iowa” campaign. One of the goals of this effort is to train landscaping professionals in designing and installing these urban conservation practices so that homeowners can work with these professionals to install these practices in their community.

For more information on the different types of urban conservation practices or to find a “Rainscaper” near you just visit www.rainscapingiowa.org

So, whether you are on the farm, living on acreage or in town, I would encourage you to take a look at your property and consider how you will manage the rain that falls on it this year. If we all take steps to take better care of precious resources we can make sure future generations can enjoy them as well.

Article Photos

Bill Northey
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture

 
 

 

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