Drake University SOIL Conference Looks to Improve Iowa Water

DES MOINES, Iowa- A conference at Drake University was held to look for ways to improve Iowa water quality through stewardship of the land. The SOIL Conference stands for Saving Our Iowa Land brought in farmers, conservation leaders, land owners, and government officials to brainstorm ideas.

“The first challenge we face around Iowa is our lakes are sick, we need to set goals to make them well,” said Jennifer Terry, of the Iowa Environmental Council. “A lot of you have talked about soil, soil and water are definitely hooked together in this state.”

Ray Gaesser is a farmer, and leader in the Iowa Soybean Association. He outlined some priorities.
“Conservation, water quality, soil health, profitability, and opportunities for the next generation,” said Gaesser.

Joe McGovern, President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has been looking for ways to improve water quality incrementally.

“The land is 97 per cent privately owned, so I think conservation easements, on private land is the key,” said McGovern.

“The millions of acres focused solely on two grains are a significant the primary contributor to the over nitrification
of our surface waters,” said Bill Stowe of the Des Moines Water Works. Stowe talked about the effort to improve water with cover crops. “One hundred twenty-five million dollars of our state tax money, and got us nowhere, sprinkled money around and had a number of ribbon cuttings, involving electives, and a great splash of publicity, but absolutely no results.”

Stowe called for more accountability from agriculture through permits.