One of the first steps in Iowa’s water-quality program, cost-share for cover crops, is a hit.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture opened up $1.8 million for the program on Aug. 8 and farmers flooded the department with requests, using the allotted money in only a week or two.

The department added $1 million to the amount (originally expected to be used later) and farmers immediately submitted requests for all of that as well.

“It’s an amazing response,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

The $2.8 million in cost-share funds was made available to help farmers implement new nutrient reduction practices, Northey explains. The state funds were available to help farmers who had not before used cover crops and the funds could not cover more than 50 percent of the practice.

The ag department received applications from nearly 1,100 farmers for 109,415 acres of cover crops, 7,321 acres of nitrification inhibitors, 2,675 acres of no-till and 1,268 acres of strip till.

The funding was not available to anyone previously using the practice and was only available for up to 160 acres of land. The cost-share rate for cover crops was $25 per acre (about half the total cost). It was $10 per acre for farmers trying to no-till or strip-till. Farmers using a nitrapyrin nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer were eligible to receive $3 per acre.

Northey estimates about 100,000 acres of Iowa farmland had cover crops this past year, so this program could immediately double the total. Funding will go to farmers in about 85 counties.

Northey adds the response shows farmers are eager to reduce nitrogen runoff and erosion on their farms.