The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making conservation financial assistance available to farmers in southeast Michigan as part of an effort to improve water quality in Lake Erie. Farmers have until March 8, 2013, to apply for the assistance at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
The USDA has $600,000 in funding available through the Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative for farmers in Lenawee and Monroe counties and portions of Branch, Hillsdale, Jackson, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. The financial assistance is available for producers to implement selected conservation activities that help prevent fertilizers and sediment from agricultural land from entering Lake Erie.
The Western Lake Erie Basin Initiative was initiated in 2012. Last year, Michigan farmers contracted for financial assistance under the initiative to grow cover crops and implement nutrient management practices on about 8,700 acres of farmland. A partial list of other practices eligible for financial assistance includes residue and tillage management, filter strips and windbreaks. A combination of different conservation practices is most effective at curbing nutrient and sediment loss. Applications received by March 8 will be ranked with the highest ranked applicants offered financial assistance contracts.
The Western Lake Erie Basin was made a priority area by USDA because of an increase of algal blooms in the area over the past five years. Increased levels of phosphorus in surface water contribute to algal blooms which diminish water quality and are harmful to fish and other aquatic wildlife. Agricultural land in the Western Lake Erie Basin was determined to be one of the sources of increased phosphorus in surface water due to water and wind erosion.
More information about USDA conservation financial assistance is available at local NRCS offices or online at www.mi.nrcs.usda.gov. A listing of NRCS offices in Michigan can also be found online.