Iowa Pork Continues to Invest in Improving Water Quality

Mike Ehlers, a pig farmer from Marathon, Iowa, discussed how they installed a bioreactor on their pork farm Wednesday during a press conference at the Iowa Pork Congress. ( Jennifer Shike )

The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is partnering with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to offer funding for pig farmers interested in implementing new nutrient loss reduction technologies.

This is the third year in a row that IPPA is helping offset up to 50% of the costs for pig farmers to install saturated buffers or bioreactors on their farm land through a $25,000 donation to IDALS. Preference is given to sites that provide the greatest opportunity for nitrate reduction and will be geographically dispersed throughout the state to aid in education and demonstration opportunities.

“This additional $25,000 investment by the Iowa Pork Producers Association will help support our efforts to scale-up the adoption of these edge-of-field practices focused on improving water quality. Both bioreactors and saturated buffers are still fairly new practices. This investment will help us continue to place these practices throughout the state to show farmers how they might fit in their operation,” says Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

Naig applauds IPPA for continuing to invest in water quality efforts in Iowa. He says protecting Iowa’s natural resources is crucial for the state’s success.

“We have not learned the last thing we are ever going to learn about water quality,” Naig says. “This continues to be an effort of learning and adopting best practices to protect water in our state.”

IPPA past-president Gregg Hora, a pig farmer from Fort Dodge, Iowa says public/private partnerships such as this continue to drive momentum of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

“IPPA wants to ensure to consumers and citizens that farmers do care in the state of Iowa,” Hora says.

This is the third year of funding committed by IPPA. Past funding has assisted in completing 11 projects, with an additional 10 projects under development. These efforts help remove nitrogen from water before it reaches our creeks, streams and rivers.

Bioreactors are excavated pits filled with wood chips, with tile drainage water flowing through the wood chips. As water from the tile line passes into the bioreactor, denitrifying bacteria converts nitrate into di-nitrogen gas.

Saturated buffers divert water flowing through underground tile lines into buffers along a river or stream, aiding nutrient removal before the water enters the waterway.

Mike Ehlers, a pig farmer from Marathon, Iowa, discussed how they installed a bioreactor on their pork farm Wednesday during a press conference at the Iowa Pork Congress.

“We care about water quality on our farm,” Ehlers says. “The results we’ve had so far are amazing. Since May, we’ve sampled the tile six times and the reduction in nitrate concentration has been between 85% to 100%. Nitrate was undetectable in a few of those samples after they went through the bioreactor.”

The bioreactor that Ehlers put in was built on his landlord’s farm and drains a 75-acre field.

“This is how we keep moving the needle on improving Iowa’s water quality,” Hora says. “It’s not about the practices being implemented now, but what’s being left for the next generation. That matters to us as pig farmers.”

 
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