There’s plenty of evidence from many different sources piling up these days that shows Iowa farmers are serious about taking on the challenge of improving the state’s water quality.

I can see it first-hand when I drive around the countryside this fall. Cover crops are up and growing on a lot of newly-harvested fields. There’s also a lot of dirt work going on, as farmers install saturated buffers, bioreactors and other conservation structures.

The drive to improve water quality is also apparent at post-harvest conservation field days. Farmers, landowners and others are flocking to gatherings all over the state to learn about best practices that reduce nutrient loss and improve water quality.

Enthusiasm shows

The Iowa Farm Bureau Fed­eration’s (IFBF) recent annual membership survey also picked up farmers’ enthusiasm to improve water quality and willingness to invest their own funds to accomplish it.

The scientific survey of 400 farmer members, conducted in September, showed:

• 84 percent said they are actively applying conservation practices on their farms.

• 75 percent said they were applying those conservation practices on their own, with zero cost-share dollars from state or federal agencies.

• More than three-quarters, or 76 percent, plan to apply more conservation practices within the next five years.

The IFBF survey also showed that 74 percent of members surveyed were somewhat to very familiar with Iowa’s Water Quality Initiative, officially called the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

These findings buttress other farmer surveys, which also show that farmers are serious about improving water quality and they are willing to put skin in the game to accomplish that goal. A good example is a recent Iowa State University Farm and Rural Life Poll, which showed farmers have invested as much as $2.2 billion over the past decade on water quality and conservation.

These surveys provide clear evidence that Iowa farmers are willing to invest their own dollars in water quality, even at a time when the farm economy is struggling. When you follow the money, it gives you solid evidence that Iowa farmers are stepping up to the challenge of improving water quality.