Iowa's Low Hanging Fruit

Stream Buffer Rule = Cleaner Water, Little Cost

February 3, 2015

Iowa's Low Hanging Fruit: Converting a Tiny Fraction of Crop Acres Would Meet Standards

In all five counties, the number of acres that would have to be planted with grass to comply with a streamside buffer standard is a vanishingly small percentage of the acreage currently planted with corn and soybeans (Table 3). The percent of corn and soybean acres needed to meet the 35-foot standard ranges from 0.03 percent in Allamakee, Hamilton, Linn and Union counties to 0.08 percent in Plymouth County. That amounts to a miniscule 565 acres of row crops that would need to be planted with grass across all five counties – 0.05 percent of all corn and soybean acres. Remarkably, even a 50-foot buffer standard would require less than 1,500 acres in total across all five counties – 0.12 percent of the land planted with row crops.

Table 3: Very few acres of corn and soy would need to be planted with grass.

County 2013 corn and soy acres Acres Needed to Meet Standard Percent of Total Corn and Soy Acres Needed to Meet Standard
35-foot 50-foot 75-foot 35-foot 50-foot 75-foot
Allamakee 89,502 23 79 288 0.03% 0.09% 0.32%
Hamilton 301,683 81 164 457 0.03% 0.05% 0.15%
Linn 245,438 72 183 455 0.03% 0.07% 0.19%
Plymouth 402,304 338 793 1,813 0.08% 0.20% 0.45%
Union 179,103 51 212 509 0.03% 0.12% 0.28%
Grand Total 1,218,028 565 1,430 3,522 0.05% 0.12% 0.29%

In Hamilton County, meeting even the 75-foot streamside buffer standard would require converting only 0.15 percent of corn and soybean acres to grass. Meeting that standard in Plymouth County – the county that lacks the most streamside buffers – would take out only 0.45 percent of row crop acres. Meeting the 75-foot standard in all five counties would require 3,522 acres – 0.29 percent of the total corn and soybean acreage.