Water quality concerns have leaders considering a boost in funds for the Iowa Water Quality Initiative.
At a public budget request meeting on December 1, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey requested $7.5 million for his department's water quality efforts. The money comes from the state's general fund and is about $3 million more than this fiscal year's appropriation of $4.4 million.
Northey says the increase is necessary because of agriculture's critical role in Iowa. Although, he concedes, recent low grain prices translates into fewer tax dollars for the state, he argues a commitment towards water quality should be a priority.
Northey says, "The ag economy has been a very big part of making us be able to have the dollars necessary in the previous year's state budget to make the kinds of investments that have been made. Ag has seen a very small part of that, and I'd certainly argue that to be able to get the leverage that we can off of these dollars, we need to be able to have an increase here that would help match that farmer investment."
Northey says budgeting in extra dollars for agriculture could be a challenge especially with the Governor's commitments to education and property tax relief.
"As the governor and others look at it, they have to look at all those pieces. I would argue that in a challenging time for agriculture, that's an especially important time to make that investment that we can use to leverage that farmer money that's coming willingly from those farmers, to be able to do voluntary water quality and conservation cost-share practices out there." He says, "So I would argue that this is an especially important time to make that investment, realizing that it's a challenging time in state government to find those dollars."