Conservation district commissioners want a law prohibiting planting within 30 feet of streams
By Diego Flammini
Some Iowa farmers want the state government to pass a law limiting how close to a stream a producer can plant his or her crops.
The Conservation Districts of Iowa is calling for legislators to rule that farmers can’t plant crops within 30 feet of streams.
The group, which includes 500 elected members, voted to move forward with this resolution during its annual conference in August.
A 30-foot buffer between fields and streams would have environmental benefits, said Laura Krouse, a cash crop producer from Mount Vernon, Iowa.
“The buffer strips would protect our water quality,” she told Farms.com. “If somebody is farming all the way up to the edge of the stream, it’s pretty easy for chunks of dirt to fall into the stream. And if you’re farming within two or three feet from the stream, you’re not giving sediment a place to settle.”
In addition to farming, Krouse is a commissioner with the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District. The local conservation group pitched the idea of the buffer strips.
Farmers could choose between multiple options for planting within the 30-foot zone.
Hay, perennials and fruit or nut trees could be planted there, and the state and federal governments provide subsidies for buffers, Krouse said.
“You need some perennials along the edge to protect the stream and also allow for nutrients to filter out of the water,” she said.
Iowa’s top ag representative opposes the idea of mandatory buffer zones.
Instead, Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig wants to continue educating farmers and let them make individual decisions.
“This calls for regulation, a requirement for buffers, and that’s not the approach we’re taking here,” he told The Gazette Friday. “There’s no doubt buffer strips are a great conservation practice. They are in the (Nutrient Reduction) strategy and a practice we have a long history of implementing in the state. I just don’t think the regulatory approach is the right way to go.”
Farms.com has reached out to other Iowa farm groups for comment.