U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is in town this week for the World Food Prize.
At the Botanical Garden in Des Moines, he announced $3 million of investment into Iowa partner-led work. Intended to nearly double the number of wetland acres protected and restored in the state. Five sites are primarily targeted with these funds in Iowa prairie pothole wetlands and tall grass uplands.
Vilsack says Iowa conservation groups are more interested in collaborating to protect land, "I want to pledge to Secretary Northey and to all who are assembled here that USDA and NRCS stand ready to be part of that collaborative process to bring the resources that we have to bear on solutions."
Vilsack's announcement came along with his appointment of Kurt Simon as the new Iowa State Conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Simon has more than 30 years of experience with the USDA and holds degrees in wildlife management and agronomy. He wants to start with conservation planning to work with farmers and see what resource needs are for long-term sustainability.
He says his biggest challenge will be getting used to the new location, "Well initially, it's going to be learning all of the players and the partners since I'm not originally from Iowa. Although I do have roots here, my grandfather was born and raised in Iowa, in Hardin county. And so initially, I'm going to be meeting with a lot of the partners to try and find out what all the issues and concerns are involving agriculture, and what way the Natural Resources Conservation Service can help and assist."
During the last fiscal year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and NRCS invested more than $51 million into conservation and water quality efforts in Iowa.