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 April 27, 2012 to apply for the assistance at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office.
"This is a good opportunity for farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin to implement additional conservation activities that will not only help improve water quality but also improve soil quality on their land and help them reduce fuel and fertilizer costs," said Kevin Wickey, acting state conservationist for NRCS.
The USDA has allocated $440,000 in financial assistance for producers in the Michigan portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin priority area. The area includes all of Lenawee and Monroe counties and portions of 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.
A partial list of practices eligible for financial assistance includes cover crops, residue and tillage management, filter strips, nutrient management and windbreaks. A combination of different conservation practices is most effective at curbing nutrient and sediment loss. Applications received by April 27 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 at http://www.mi.nrcs.usda.gov/contact/Field%20Offices.html.