The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Iowa organizations $2.5 million to improve water quality, habitat and the exchange of information among farmers that will benefit the ecosystems and watersheds from Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico.

The grants, announced today during a news conference at the state Capitol, were awarded to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and Practical Farmers of Iowa as part of the EPA’s Farmer to Farmer program.

The three projects in Iowa to receive funds are:

  • The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, for the Fostering Opportunities for Water Quality Wetlands Demonstration Project, $1 million.
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa, for strengthening farmer networks to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the on-demand world, $979,915.
  • The Iowa DNR, for Mentoring for Success in the Beaver Creek Watershed, $559,258.

In a statement made in a release before the announcement, acting EPA Regional 7 Administrator Edward Chu said the Farmer to Farmer Program can help generate ideas and solutions that will make the biggest difference.

“I’m pleased that this funding will go to educate and empower farmers to implement best practices in their operations to reduce nutrient loads and improve water quality in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, including the North Raccoon River and Beaver Creek watersheds,” he said.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said the money will help the state continue to build on the conservation work that is already underway across Iowa.

“Improving water quality is a difficult task but we’re continuously learning and testing new science-based practices to scale-up our efforts,” Naig said in a statement released ahead of the announcement. “This EPA grant allows us to test a new type of wetland that may be able to be used in more locations, which would allow us to make a greater impact on water quality in Iowa and downstream.”

Lori McDaniel, water quality bureau chief for the Iowa DNR, said the funds will help connect  mentors and landowners and provide “the necessary tools and resources to get nutrient management practices on the ground much quicker.”

“The Beaver Creek WMA is very fortunate to be able to use EPA’s Farmer to Farmer grant to promote soil health, edge of field practices, and floodplain restoration with the farmers, landowners, and communities in the Beaver Creek watershed,” said Chuck Wenthold, chair of the Beaver Creek Watershed Management Authority.

Sarah Carlson, strategic initiative director with Practical Farmers of Iowa, said the organization has seen how the farmer-to-farmer learning model has helped empower farmers to make changes that improve soil, water, wildlife and profitability.

“With this EPA funding, we'll be able to help more farmers tap into this powerful network and get the support they need to add cover crops and small grains, which are proven ways to improve water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat while making their farms more resilient,” Carlson said in a statement released before the announcement.