DES MOINES, Iowa — Jan. 5, 2016 — Iowa farmers and livestock producers have access to more support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through expanded efforts to improve water and soil resources and nutrient management practices, according to a press release.

Iowa has 30 million acres of farmland, noted the release. Through the additional support, USDA’s signature conservation programs will add up to 85,000 acres for sensitive lands. The agency will also work closely with state partners on an improved watershed-based strategy for nutrient management, and aim to better target grants and loans for technical assistance and capital improvements.

More than 4.5 million acres of the state’s working farmland are part of USDA’s conservation programs, stated the release. The agency has invested more than $2.2 billion in its efforts in the state.

USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the agency’s goal in Iowa is to help the state replicate a watershed-based plan such as the Mississippi River Basin Initiative in Iowa’s major state watersheds.

“USDA is making a decade-long commitment to Iowa producers and residents to provide coordination, assistance, and greater access to available programming above and beyond what we currently offer,” said Vilsack in the release.

According to Vilsack, over the next decade the agency’s will undertake a variety of efforts to accomplish its goal.

  • Up to 85,000 new acres will be made available for rental payments reserved for the most sensitive lands, equivalent to roughly a $175 million investment into the state’s land resources.
  • USDA will provide $660 million in targeted assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • USDA will expand access to the $25 million in loans and grants currently offered to Iowa, for a $250 million investment over the next ten years.
  • The Iowa government and USDA will work together to remove barriers to the full use of Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funding and to make sure existing funding for water and wastewater treatment facilities totaling $25 million is fully utilized.

USDA has worked with private landowners since 2009 to conserve and clean drinking water and preserve soil, reported the release. More than 400 million acres across in the U.S. are protected because of partnerships between USDA and more than 500,000 producers.

You can find the entire release here.