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Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D)

Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) councils across Iowa are working to create jobs, protect the environment and improve the quality of life in rural communities. They have a great track record of accomplishments, but the challenges are still great. This is particularly true in rural counties that are still experiencing declines in population and economies impacted by low agricultural commodity prices.

Map of Iowa RC&D areas and a staff listing
RC&D Fact Sheets

The following is a sample of the work that RC&Ds are doing, along with some of the unmet needs that still remain in rural communities across the state.

Local Food Products to Local Market Brokerage System -This system would facilitate the process with several large consumers (hospitals, convention centers, hotels, colleges or food service companies) each year. This would need to be a two to three year pilot program. After that, there should be enough markets established to use as models in the Sioux City Region of Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska to show the way for others. Project cost of $125,000 to $150,000 for the three-year program. Establish many direct marketing systems from rural areas to the urban ones. Rural Entrepreneurs, include many people who are working to develop a new business while already working full-time on the farm or off-farm. Many of these people receive business development assistance from RC&Ds across Iowa. Projects currently receiving RC&D assistance include an aquaculture and fish processing venture in west central Iowa. They also include work to re-establish the wine grape industry in eastern, southern and western Iowa and a variety of business start-ups statewide. These and many other ventures are focused at helping rural communities maintain a viable business and employment base.

Rural Water and other utilities continue to be a focus of RC&D work in southern and eastern Iowa. Sewage treatment is a particular challenge in Iowa's smallest communities, as conventional technologies are becoming too costly for these communities to maintain. Pathfinders RC&D is helping to develop the Rural Utilities Service System (RUSS) to help fill this gap. $50,000 is needed in the next year to accelerate the development of the RUSS program.

Watershed Project Development – RC&D councils are currently working with local leaders to develop watershed protection and development projects in the Raccoon River, Maquoketa River, Lake Rathbun, Wapsipinicon River, Upper Iowa River, Fox River, Gooseberry Creek, and Whitebreast Creek and other watersheds. RC&D assistance is needed to help local leaders in these and other watersheds organize, coordinate technical assistance, develop funding packages, and plan for long-term project installation and maintenance. Assistance costs for these projects will range from $10,000-300,000. There are currently projects active in all five congressional districts in Iowa.

Rural Tourism Development – Tourism based on unique aesthetic, cultural and historic resources is an important opportunity for many Iowa communities. Strengthened RC&D assistance to local rural tourism development work will benefit communities across Iowa. Communities along the Missouri River in Congressional Districts 4 and 5 have a particular need to make us of the unique opportunity presented by the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in 2003. Communities along the Mississippi River have also been approached about providing assistance to local scenic byway systems along the river.

Computer Recycling – These projects recycle computers to go to low income families or other organizations. They work by salvaging 486 speed or higher computers, fixing them up and redistributing them to needy students that can not afford one for general word processing. Other programs in urban areas have recycled thousands per year and can’t keep up. Project cost of $80,000 to $100,000 per year would easily provide assistance to potentially thousands of kids and keep toxic battery/electrical components out of the landfills. These projects also provide the opportunity to employ/teach hundreds of people on computer repair through a hands-on teaching experience to get most computers repaired with volunteer labor. There is an active project in the Iowa Great Lakes area, with another being explored in the Sioux City area.

Dry Hydrants, non-pressurized fire hydrants that make raw water from ponds, lakes and streams available for rural fire fighting, are being installed across the state with technical and administrative assistance from RC&Ds. These dry hydrants have already helped save rural buildings from fire, and are lowering fire insurance premiums in some areas. While significant progress has been made, many areas of the state still have not accessed this simple yet effective technology. Continued work will benefit rural residents statewide.

Urban Wood Recycling projects convert waste wood to lumber and firewood, and decrease material going to the landfills. Projects are either underway or are being considered in the Des Moines area, north central Iowa, and the Sioux City area. Each project offers the opportunity to create employment and reduce the volume of wood waste going into landfills. Each regional project will require $500,000 to $750,000 to cover start-up costs.

Construction Material Recycling. Reduce construction waste going to landfill by an estimated 50%-65%. A small crew could go in ahead of the remodeling contractor and salvage usable items that are typically thrown away that would save remodeling contractor demolition time. These items could be warehoused and sold on the secondary market at very reduced prices to people that are doing projects that do not demand high quality, unblemished materials. Items such as ceiling tiles and lights, framing materials doors, office equipment, electrical and plumbing components, leftover inventory and ductwork are usually disposed of in dumpsters headed for the landfill. Program costs would be about $180,000 to $200,000 the first year, eventually employing 5-10 people. Could be self sustaining soon and affect primarily the tri-state area near Sioux City.