What’s the formula for finding farmers who may want to convert crops to buffer strips, and then convincing them by the hundreds to put the plans in place?
In Iowa, one of the leading states in buffers entered into the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) continuous signup, it’s a matter of offering a mix of incentive programs and then marketing the technical and financial help offered by those programs through public and private groups.
Through 1997, Iowa farmers had signed up more than 50,000 acres of buffers, and is one of the national leaders in both number of farmers and acres. That acreage is due in no small part to the major role several organizations are playing in promoting buffers in the state.
Universities, farm organizations, farm media, private businesses, county governments, state conservation agencies, non-profit organizations and others are working with USDA to establish buffers in Iowa at record numbers. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has provided much of the leadership for the various efforts.
Strategies for Success
There are several strategies and activities that have contributed to the recent success of buffers in Iowa, all of which support a national USDA initiative to establish 2 million miles of conservation buffers by the year 2002. Nationally, more than 70 organizations support the buffer initiative.
A statewide coalition was established to promote productive, profitable farming through the use of conservation buffers in Iowa. The Iowa Buffer Coalition steering committee is comprised of the NRCS, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship—Division of Soil Conservation (DSC), Conservation Districts of Iowa (CDI), Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Pheasants Forever, Iowa Soybean Association, Trees Forever, Iowa Agribusiness Association, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Iowa State University Extension Service.
In addition, local chapters of all of the organizations involved in the national buffer initiative have been invited to participate, with many already joining the effort. Current projects include producing infor-
mational pieces to promote the benefits of buffers, and working with ag media to publicize the continuous CRP signup, the buffer model farm project and local success stories.
A list of 75 Iowa farmers who are willing to talk about their buffers was recently compiled and shared with ag media. The list, which includes descriptions of the farmers’ operations and buffers, was compiled by the Iowa NRCS and was distributed to Iowa’s farm radio stations and agricultural print media in the region, who pledged significant air time and space to promote buffer practices and programs. Iowa’s farm broadcasters at stations in Davenport, Des Moines, Ft. Dodge, Shenandoah, Sioux City, Denison, Dubuque, Mason City, Ottumwa, and Cedar Rapids are planning a series of releases and interviews on the subject.
A new Trees Forever Buffer Initiative was developed to establish buffer demonstration sites across the state. The initiative, which brings public and private sector interests together, will establish 20 streamside buffer demonstration sites each year in Iowa for the next five years and provide recognition as well as a network of technical assistance to landowners implementing buffers. The Trees Forever Iowa Buffer Initiative, which involves a diverse group of partners and sponsors, including local farmers, Novartis Crop Protection Inc., Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa DNR, Environmental Protection Agency, and the NRCS is the first of its kind, and could serve as a national model.
Conservation professionals are involved in local promotions across the state, providing unique incentives which have helped spark interest and involvement in the growing conservation buffer movement. In efforts to protect the water quality of Lake Panorama, a group of partners in the Middle Raccoon Watershed have offered landowners a $100 per acre one time bonus payment for signing up in the CRP, as well as increased cost share to establish prairie grasses and trees in streambank buffers.
Pheasants Forever, FFA, the Lake Panorama Association, County Conservation Boards, Trees Forever, Pioneer, Monsanto, FFA, agribusinesses, Middle Raccoon Regional Watershed Foundation, Raccoon River Watershed Project, FSA, and NRCS are among the partners involved in the project.