Project ID



The goal of this project was to create a user-friendly guide to increase participation in programs by farmers and landowners. We created “How to Improve Water Quality on Iowa Farms: A Step-by-Step Guide for Navigating Conservation Programs for Farmers and Landowners” for users to understand existing public programs that improve water quality and promote soil health. We also included a section on examples of private industry support identified as Private Conservation Incentives, which we researched in a previous Leopold Center-funded project. The Guide focuses on the needs and experiences of farmers and landowners. We identified current on-farm water quality conservation practices offered by key agencies, including NRCS, DNR, IDALS, and SWCD. We also included examples of private entities partnering with farmers and landowners to encourage conservation practices on Iowa farms. This project built on our previous Leopold Center-funded projects and reflects our belief that helping Iowa farmers and landowners understand how to use public resources to improve water quality is a critical need. Previous Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure (SALT) Initiative research at Drake has revealed key factors to promote sustainability and resilience. We have produced a series of resources and reports, hosted conferences and workshops, and promoted practices to make Iowa farms more resilient. Examples include the Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Farm Leasing, legal resources for lease agreements in the face of extreme weather, and two statewide SOIL conferences focusing on the future of soil and water conservation policy and enabling landowners to partner with their farmers for better water quality and soil health.

Key Question

What opportunities are available to leverage public resources to engage more Iowa famers and landowners in water quality protection?


The main objective of the project was to provide a better understanding of conservation initiatives and programs to help farmers and landowners put more conservation on their land. This understanding helps promote sustainable agriculture by promoting conservation practices and structures. Our research supports the ongoing need for public programs to provide farmers and landowners with resources (cost share, loans, technical assistance, incentive payments) to better implement conservation practices on a larger scale and in shorter time frames. Emerging programs of private conservation incentives can work alongside public programs to increase conservation. To aid farmers and landowners, the outputs from the project include: “Guide on How to Improve Water Quality on the Farm” with clarity about what water quality programs can be used for specific structures and practices, including a case study of a farm family using multiple programs to improve water quality, to protect soil, and to increase profitability and online resources for conference displays and presentations for workshops and conferences.

Principal Investigator(s)

Neil Hamilton


Jennifer Zwagerman; Matt Russell

Year of Grant Completion