Majority of 2015 Environmental Leader Awards are Farm Bureau Members

A record number of Iowa farmers were recognized at the Iowa State Fair this year for their exceptional leadership as stewards of the land and watershed.  Of the 95 Iowa farm families honored this year with the 2015 Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award, nearly three-quarters are Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) members. 

The environmental leader award winners were celebrated during the Iowa State Fair, a part of the joint effort between Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The award honors the exceptional efforts by Iowa farmers to protect the state’s land and water.   

“Iowa is a national leader in conservation and water quality efforts and it is important that we recognize the farmers who are making a significant investment in conservation efforts and serving as examples in how we can continue to better care for our air, soil and water,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

The practices implemented by winners vary, just as the needs and geography of the land varies, but common effective practices include cover crops, no-till, grassy waterways, wetlands, terraces and more.   Of the record 95 farm families who received the award, 70 were IFBF members.

“The fact that so many Farm Bureau members are being recognized as environmental leaders is telling the rest of the state what we already knew — farmers are the original conservationists and they are passionate, innovative and dedicated to embracing voluntary measures to do everything they can to protect soil and water quality,” says Rick Robinson, IFBF environmental policy advisor. “We’re very proud that so many are also Farm Bureau members.”      

Jeff Frank, a member from Sac County, says he appreciates the recognition.  

“We're pleased to be recognized as Iowa Farm Environmental Leaders. As fourth generation farmers on a century farm, it's great to be living in a state that recognizes what we as ‘stewards of the land’ do to protect the land and water. The steps we have taken, along with the generations before us, to ensure that our children will have a quality place to call home for a long time to come is gratifying. We are proud to be one of the many family farms that incorporate these practices in their everyday operations.”

Matthew Bormann, a member from Kossuth County, says farmers have to think about conservation and keep working to improve, because the state has a finite amount of land.

“We want to return our land to the next generation in better condition than when we received it,” he said. “That has to be the way a farmer thinks, because if we destroy the land we have, we can’t just create more. That’s why we’ve implemented practices like cover crops and strip tillage on our farm. And it works! We’ve seen the soil quality improve, while yield and our bottom line have grown.”

Farmers working together to protect the land and embracing innovation in the agriculture industry to improve conservation is essential for continued success, said award recipient Jeff Pape from Dubuque County.

“We are more equipped than ever before to preserve and protect our environment,” Pape said, whose collaborative approach to improving the Hewitt Creek watershed brought 85 percent of the farmers in the watershed together to make measurable progress in reducing phosphorous and nitrates. “Bioreactors, saturated buffers, cover crops, and even drones are all examples of some of the innovative practices and technologies being employed by farmers around the state. We know what we do on our farms has a significant impact on our state and our country’s environment. The winners of this award are only a fraction of the Iowa farmers doing their part for conservation.”

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