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National Soil and Water Conservation district event

August 6, 2017
Reinbeck Courier

ANKENY, Iowa The joint meeting between Conservation Districts of Iowa and the National Association of Conservation Districts was held on July 17 and 18 in Altoona. This was the first national Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) event ever held in Iowa, and over 450 registered to be a part of the event. There were attendees from 75 of Iowa's 100 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, 23 partner organizations, 32 states, the District of Columbia and the US Territory of Guam.

On Monday, July 17 Governor Kim Reynolds welcomed all participants to Iowa and discussed the proactive role she would like her administration to play in conservation. Speaking about a water quality funding bill, she stated, "I'd like it to be the first bill that I have the opportunity to sign next year." Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey who served as a Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner for eight years also spoke and asked the conservation leaders present to "tell their story" and to be proud of their role in resource conservation and enhancement.

After an afternoon filled with conservation panels, guests enjoyed a banquet and awards program. Among the award winners was Tama SWCD Commissioner and its 2017 Chair, Jack Boyer of rural Reinbeck. Boyer received this year's Ken Wagner Award, which is given annually to an outstanding Iowa SWCD Commissioner with five years or fewer of experience. This award is given in memory of Ken Wagner who was instrumental in the development of Iowa's Soil Conservation Districts. He was a Soil Conservation District Commissioner in Johnson County and was a member of the State Soil Conservation Committee 1948-1961.

Following the awards event was a live auction that raised over $11,000 in college scholarships for students interested in agricultural conservation. Leonard Jordan, the acting chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), also addressed the crowd and reminded them that there is still work left to do, "we need to step our game up to make sure that we are providing to the community; we are caretakers." Conservation leaders were also honored: Chris Teachout of Fremont County was named Conservation Farmer of the Year and Richard Jensen of Fayette County was given the Outstanding Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner Award.

On Tuesday, July 18 participant's boarded early morning buses for the conference's main event, conservation tours of Iowa. The focus of the two tours was Soil Health and Water Quality. Soil Health Tour participants visited the Badger Creek Lake Watershed Project in Madison County to learn about an Iowa-originated practice, prairie strips. Tour goers also visited Dallas County to hear about Brad Harrison, an NRCS District Conservation in Madison County who passed away in 2017 and is responsible for NRCS's slogan, "helping people help the land." The last stop of the day was at Bruce Carney's farm in Polk County, Soil Health Tour participants met with 50 FFA students who had been accepted into the highly competitive New Century Farmer Program, and both learned about rotational and cover crop grazing.

Participants on the Water Quality Tour visited Summerbrook Park and took a driving tour of Ankeny in Polk County to learn about urban conservation. Next they toured the Land Improvement Contractors Association farm in Marshall County where participants could see a high density of water quality practices like a wetland, water control structure, grassed waterway, bioreactor and rain gardens. Water Quality Tour goers concluded their day at Alluvial Brewing Company in Ames where they learned about the brewery's efforts to use NRCS funds to install a wetland, prairie and expanded Community Supported Agriculture farm.



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