Iowa Interfaith Power & Light continues to partner with an increasing number of organizations as we develop our Faith Farms and Climate project. One of those groups is ALUS (originally an acronym for Alternative Land Use Services), a charitable organization that has been empowering farmers and ranchers to build nature on their land. ALUS provides a coherent and cohesive concept based on robust guiding principles, which is tried and tested, adopted by more than one thousand farmers and ranchers in Canada, and that could be uniquely adapted to Iowa conditions.
ALUS invited Matt Russell, our executive director, to visit some of the farms they work with in Ontario in the fall of 2019. Since then, ALUS and Iowa IPL have continued to look at ways the two organizations can help each other empower farmers to lead the efforts to develop ecosystem services to help solve environmental challenges. One of the great insights ALUS has helped us better understand is that conservation on Iowa farms is production. When farmers implement successful conservation practices, they aren’t setting aside their land, they are building and managing nature.
One of the tools ALUS has developed in the past few years is their New AcreTM Project which helps corporations exceed sustainability objectives by supporting farmers and ranchers to build nature on their land one acre at a time, moving beyond conservation to production.
Last spring, Iowa IPL and ALUS entered into an agreement to explore how Iowa farmers could continue to develop opportunities for their own leadership in developing farming solutions to environmental challenges including helping to solve climate change.
We already have some of the best examples of farmer led efforts in the country. Iowa IPL is a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa which in 2020 leveraged over $1.2 million for farmers in the Midwest to put cover crops and small grains on over 200,000 acres. Iowa also has the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, a project of the Iowa Soybean Association, that provides payments to farmers and landowners that go well beyond the scale of existing public or private incentive programs.
These two Iowa farmer led efforts are growing. We are often elevating these programs as we help farmers lead the efforts to advance the “production” of environmental benefits on their farms, for example this story from Successful Farming in March. And last week Matt along with his colleague, co-author, and Iowa IPL supporter Robert Leonard wrote about farmer innovation in their occasional commentary for the Food and Environmental Reporting Network’s Ag Insider.
We’ve also been part of the Iowa Smart Agriculture Working Group supported by Solutions from the Land. We’ve helped connect several of our Faith Farms and Climate farmers to this working group to help lead the broader discussion of climate smart agriculture (CSA), including adaptation and mitigation strategies.
With over 30 million acres of some of the best farmland in the world, Iowa farmers have an enormous opportunity to help produce the environmental benefits the world needs. Iowa IPL is helping Iowa farmers connect with the best farmer led programs to empower farmer leadership to help solve the climate crisis.
As we proved in the 2020 Caucus season, the whole world is looking to leverage Iowa farmers as part of the solution to climate change and other environmental problems. We know that if we’re going to successfully build nature into our agriculture systems, farmers can’t simply be leveraged to do this work, they in fact must lead it and leverage for themselves, their farms, and their communities the value of that production. We’re excited to be partnering with groups like ALUS to figure out how to better do that work in Iowa.