In relation to farmland and agricultural operations, government efforts to preserve Iowa’s soil, water, and other natural resources relies, for the most part, on financial incentives and technical assistance.  There are a variety of local, state, and federal programs designed to encourage the adoption of conservation practices and improvements by Iowa’s landowners and farmers.

These programs address a variety of conservation issues, create varying legal responsibilities for landowners and farm operators, and often have different eligibility requirements. The categories below provide a brief overview of existing programs and provide links to additional resources and contact information for each program.

Programs by Type of Land and Conservation Concern

Cropland
Introduction

Introduction to Cropland Programs

There are a number of government programs aimed at improving conservation on cropland. Programs are most often aimed at reducing soil erosion and runoff, protecting water quality, or both. These goals are typically achieved by establishing conservation practices, such as contour farming and no-till or conservation tillage, or constructing long-term conservation improvements such as terraces and grassed waterways. The most common programs use cost-sharing or monetary incentives to establish conservation practices. However, some cropland programs use land retirement on certain land through permanent easements as well as leases for 10 to 30 years that take land out of production.

Cost-Sharing

Cropland Cost-share and Financial Incentives

 

Many conservation programs, at the local, state, and federal level, provide cost-share assistance. This means the government entity pays for a portion, or perhaps, depending on the program, the complete cost of establishing conservation improvements and practices. Programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, provide payments for environmental services received from ongoing conservation practices.

These programs have a variety of eligibility requirements and many require agreements from recipients to maintain the conservation practices for a set period of time.

Learn more about cost-share programs on your cropland.

Easements and Land Retirement

Conservation Easements and Land Retirement

Some conservation programs pay landowners for certain rights in the property. This can be in the form of an easement or a lease on the property. Both methods often place limitations on the landowners use, such as limiting cultivation for row crop production or development on the subject property. The purpose of these arrangements vary, but they usually seek to preserve a resource or specific type of landscape, such as wildlife habitat, grasslands, wetlands, or agricultural land.

An easement is typically permanent and will continue when sold while a lease will expire after a set time. Landowners typically retain the ability to use the property for limited purposes, such as recreation or perhaps low-impact farm practices, as well as the ability to exclude access to the public. Restoration with cost-sharing is often included in this type of program.

Learn about cropland easements and land retirement.

Wetlands

Introduction to Wetlands Conservation Programs

Wetlands provide valuable and diverse benefits to the natural environment as well as mitigation of devastating flood events.

Water Quality
Introduction to Water Quality Programs

Introduction to Water Quality Protection

Many conservation programs, regardless of the type of farming operation, focus on water quality. The rivers, lakes, and streams of Iowa have been used for centuries for transportation, recreation, and drinking water. The primary goals of these programs include decreasing runoff, preventing and mitigating floods, decreasing sediment and nutrient pollution, and improving wildlife and recreation.

Water Quality Cos-sharing

Water Quality Cost-Share and Incentives

Many conservation programs, at the local, state, and federal level, provide cost-share assistance. This means the government entity pays for a portion, or perhaps, depending on the program, the complete cost of establishing conservation improvements and practices. Programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, provide payments for environmental services received from ongoing conservation practices.

These programs have a variety of eligibility requirements and many require agreements from recipients to maintain the conservation practices for a set period of time.

Learn more about cost-share programs to protect and improve water quality