CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s farmer-dominated conservation districts are calling for a state ban on planting crops within 30 feet (9.1 meters) of streams to improve water quality, but the state’s top agricultural official opposes the idea.
The Conservation Districts of Iowa isn’t the first group to push for a buffer law, but it’s the first time a group made up mainly of farmers and retired farmers has advocated for something more stringent than voluntary action, according to the Gazette.
“I think there’s a growing realization what we’re doing isn’t getting us the results we need to have,” said Dennis Carney, a Mason City farmer and president of the Conservation Districts of Iowa. “Some rules might be in order.”
The group, which includes 500 elected soil and water conservation district members, voted at its annual conference in August on a resolution titled “Require Permanent Buffer Strips to Protect Streams.”
The resolution passed with a supermajority. It calls for legislation similar to Minnesota’s buffer law, which requires buffer strips or comparable conservation practices.
Laura Krouse, an eastern Iowa farmer who serves on the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District, said taking buffer space out of corn production would come with a cost for farmers, but there are other ways to make money off the land.
Hay, perennial crops and fruit or nut trees could be planted in the buffer strips, she said. The state and federal government also offer subsidies for perennial buffers.
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said he opposes a buffer strip requirement. Naig said installing buffer strips is a good conservation practice with a long history in Iowa, but he doesn’t want to mandate it. He also questioned whether the conservation district reflects the views of most Iowa farmers.
“This calls for regulation, a requirement for buffers, and that’s not the approach we’re taking here,” Naig said. “It’s counter to our philosophy.”