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SAVING SOIL: Farmers Use Conservation Practices

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Governor Terry Branstad is touring the state this week to see what landowners are doing on farms and in cities to protect Iowa's soil and water. It’s part of Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week. Farmers say as they start planting, it’s a good time to look at how they’re treating the land we rely on for what we eat.

Michael Koch farms 1,500 acres south of Van Meter. He says, "That counts pasture, hay corn, beans and cattle herd."

Part of his land doesn't produce crops, but he says it's just as critical to his operation. He says, "My dad started these types of terraces in the '70's."

Koch says about seven miles of terraces wind through his fields. He says the terraces are grassy slopes that hold back the water during large rains and helps keep the soil on the land instead of in rivers and streams. He says, "You're saving the soil and we want to keep it up here and not down Mississippi."

Division of Soil Conservation Director Jim Gillespie says, "We have a tremendous opportunity here, with the soils."

Gillespie says Iowa's fertile soil helps produce quality crops, which is why it's important for farmers to practice some sort of conservation. He says, "We're an Ag state. We can produce. We in turn, and I think landowners and farmers appreciate that opportunity, know that they need to protect this resource in order to be able to produce those types of ag products."

Gillespie says Iowa Soil and Water Conservation Week is meant to recognize what farmers are already doing and what more can be done. He says, "Help make other people aware of the opportunities that they may have if they see a problem with resources they're dealing with."

Gillespie says landowners can visit any of the state's soil conservation offices for help. One is in every county. He says, "They can identify some programs that may be available to bring cost share assistance to you."

Gillespie says the government provides $6.3 million to help farmers pay for conservation practices. Farmers match any government money they receive.

Koch says it’s an investment worth making for the future of the land.

Conservation week activities continue Thursday with an urban tour of downtown Des Moines.

It includes looking at native landscaping, rain gardens and a green roof at three locations in the city.

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