Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA‘s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will be putting $41 million into a three-year program designed to help farmers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. The initiative hopes to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) with science-based conservation measures designed to reduce runoff.
The invested will offer opportunities to farmers and ranchers who are interested in furthering their conservation efforts to improve the quality of the Lake. The $41 million is part of a three-year investment which will total $77 million to support sustainable production in the area.
“The challenges that face Lake Erie require science-based solutions and a commitment from all partners to address the factors that impact water quality. The area’s farmers and ranchers have already made great strides in helping to reduce runoff, and with this new investment they will be able to do even more,” said Vilsack. “Farmers and landowners will be able to add conservation measures to about 870,000 acres in this critical watershed, effectively doubling the acres of conservation treatment that can be accomplished in the three years.”
NRCS also released a new report through its Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) that evaluates the impacts of voluntary conservation in the WLEB and conservation treatment needs. The report, based on farmer survey data in the WLEB, shows voluntary conservation is making significant headway in reducing nutrient and sediment loss from farms, but there is opportunity to improve conservation management across the basin and no single conservation solution will meet the needs of each field and farm.
“Throughout the basin, comprehensive field-scale conservation planning and conservation systems are needed to accommodate different treatment needs while maintaining productivity,” said Chief Weller. “While voluntary conservation is making a difference in the basin, the CEAP evaluation tells us that there are still gains that can be made through an emphasis on practices like precision agriculture.”