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"Farmers already use satellite and other technology to decide where to apply fertilizer. An Iowa congressman wants to use the same idea to protect land and water. Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) has proposed a pilot project to boost "precision conservation," which allows farmers to use global positioning and other systems to pinpoint where cover crops or other practices make the most sense. Young's legislation, H.R. 3646, the "Water Quality Conservation Act," would offer states grants for technical and financial assistance aimed at soil health and water quality, with an emphasis on watershed protection, the congressman's office said. The legislation would allow for use of new conservation techniques, and states would be expected to match the full amount of grants, said Young's office. Funding would be based on a percentage of overall money allocated to conservation programs, which is determined in the five-year farm bill due for renewal next year. Almost every field practice farmers follow is suited best to certain locations, based on topography, soil type and other factors than can vary even on the same farm, said Jim Gulliford, executive director of the Soil and Water Conservation Society in Ankeny, Iowa. Farmers need technical assistance to map their fields and plan accordingly, he said. Several programs at the Department of Agriculture help farmers with conservation, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, but those depend on farmers going into USDA offices and voluntarily signing up, Gulliford said. Those programs may not have the focus that a precision agriculture grant program would, he said. "There could be some very good things that could come through it," Gulliford said...Young's legislation puts a greater emphasis on watershed protection than other programs, said spokesman James Carstensen. The bill would also require recipients to report results to USDA, which would create a database on the agency's website to track lessons. In time, Carstensen said, the program would show the results of conservation measures on different types of soil and topography and encourage more farmers to take on those practices."

Posted August 11th, 2017