DES MOINES – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has shared key agriculture provisions passed by the Iowa legislature during the 2017 legislative session. This includes additional funding to support water quality and soil conservation efforts, funding for additional foreign animal disease response planning, continued funding for the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program.
“I was encouraged by the strong support for a number of key ag issues this past legislative session, including conservation efforts, animal disease response planning and renewable fuels. I clearly understand the difficult budget situation they faced and I greatly appreciate their efforts to provide funding for these important priorities,” Northey said.
The Legislature approved $10.575 million to support the Iowa Water Quality Initiative in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. This is a $975,000 increase in funding from the current fiscal year. The legislation now goes to Governor Branstad and must be signed before going into effect.
This included $3 million for water quality from the general fund (SF 510), $2.375 from the Environment First Fund (SF 510) and $5.2 million from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF budget, HF 643).
The funds will allow the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to continue to offer cost share statewide to farmers trying new water quality practices, continue work in targeted watersheds to achieve measurable water quality improvements, expand urban conservation efforts, and develop new programs to help engage all Iowans in improving water quality.
The Department received $8.325 million for soil conservation cost share. Of that amount, $450,000 is directed to the hungry canyon’s account, and $40,000 to the loess hill’s alliance account. The remaining $7.835 million for the Department’s cost share program is an increase from the $6.75 million the Department received for cost share this year. In 2016, the state’s investment in this program generated $8.676 million in matching funds from Iowa farmers and land owners for soil conservation practices.
The Iowa legislature also provided $1.875 million to support the closure of Agriculture Drainage Wells (ADWs). Of the 300 registered ADWs in Iowa, 18 remain to be closed at an estimated cost of $7.5 million. This level of funding over each of the next four years would allow all of the remaining ADWs to be closed.
“Legislators made significant investments in conservation and water quality efforts again this session despite the challenging budget situation. I am extremely encouraged the annual funding for water quality continues to grow and remain committed to working with legislators to finalize an ongoing water quality funding stream,” Northey said.
The legislature also provided $100,000 to aid in preparing for a foreign animal disease outbreak, such as Foot and Mouth Disease or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The funds will increase the capacity of the animal industry bureau and provide resources to better equip and prepare for a future animal disease response.
The Department also received $3 million through the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund to continue the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program. This program offers cost-share grants for the installation of E85 dispensers, blender pumps, biodiesel dispensers, and biodiesel storage facilities. Since 2007, the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program has provided more than $33 million to fuel retailers for infrastructure that give customers additional access to renewable fuels. This includes 309 projects installing E85 or ethanol blender pumps and 413 projects installing biodiesel pumps or storage tanks.
Legislation changing some annual licenses from the Department to two-year licenses to increase efficiency was proposed by the Department and passed. Licenses that were part of the legislation include commercial feed, egg handlers, and poultry dealers.
The legislation is still awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Finally, the list of noxious weeds that is included in Iowa weed law and Iowa seed law was updated to include Palmer Amaranth in response to the recent discovery of the weed in Iowa. The Department is also planning to hold stakeholder meetings later this year to discuss possible updates to the noxious weed law that may provide additional tools as farmers and communities respond to noxious weeds.