GOP Lawmaker: Use Fertilizer Fees for Water Quality

Feb 22, 2016

A Republican lawmaker in the Iowa House who works in environmental protection in his day job has a new plan for paying for water quality, but his fellow Republicans have nixed the idea.  

Water quality is on the agenda at the statehouse this year because of a proposal from Governor Branstad to use some school funds to clean up Iowa waterways.

Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake works for the Soil and Water Conservation District in Dickinson County.  

He says some of the fees farmers pay when they buy fertilizer isn’t going to conservation initiatives like they’re supposed to.

“There’s about five million dollars paid into the state for fertilizer fees,” Wills says.  “All but about one-point-two-five million goes to its intended purpose but one-point-two-five million actually goes into the general fund.” 

Wills’s bill would have assigned the money to the natural resources budget for a water quality initiative.   But the Agriculture Committee chair said if they took the money from the general fund, budget writers would have to find some way to replace it.   

Wills says it’s important for people to know that money isn’t being used for the purpose it was  intended.

“That's one of my goals to fix some of those things,” Wills said.

Wills wanted to appropriate the funds to remove soil sediment from Iowa waterways.   Under his bill, the DNR would have hired new state employees to oversee the water cleanup.