I just completed my first year as State Conservationist this past October. During that year I crisscrossed the state at least a dozen times, meeting with nearly every Natural Resources Conservation Service staff member and partner employee. I've also met nearly half of Iowa's 500 soil and water conservation district commissioners.
I've formed relationships with members of the Iowa conservation community including farmers, state agencies, commodity groups and other non-profits. My goal was to listen and learn so that I can make informed decisions about NRCS policies, programs, funding and staff.
Despite the different backgrounds, professions, ages, and opinions of the people I met, there is one powerful common characteristic shared by nearly every person: We all care about Iowa farmers and the future of Iowa agriculture.
I've worked for NRCS for more than 30 years. And I don't recall a time when the conservation community has been involved in such an important wide-scale public debate. Water quality is a complicated issue, with many stakeholders with opposing positions on the best solutions for Iowa's water quality concerns.
Although this is a challenging time for conservation farmers and professionals, from my perspective, it's also one of the most rewarding. The impact of our work has never been greater, the conservation focus has never been stronger and our decisions have never been more significant.
So, as I move forward in my second year here in Iowa, I am optimistic that members of the conservation community will choose to focus on what we have in common and not our differences.
At NRCS, our work is guided by the nine steps of conservation planning: a conversation-driven, decision-making process. Simply put, it's a professional conservationist talking with a farmer about his or her concerns for their land and economic substantiality.
During that process, the NRCS conservation planner and the farmer work towards the best solution for each of the concerns. Ultimately, by focusing on shared goals, we move forward. Decisions are implemented which improve, protect and conserve natural resources.
If you are a farmer with water quality, soil health or erosion concerns come see us. We want to collaborate with you to plan a workable solution. And, when we can, provide financial assistance to help you apply more conservation to your farm.