USDA to expand investment in Western Lake Erie Basin water quality

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service will invest an additional $5 million to help the states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana improve water quality in the western Lake Erie basin.

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 14, 2015 -- Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will invest an additional $5 million to help the states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana improve water quality in the western Lake Erie basin. These investments will enable the region's farmers to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the watershed, one of the sources of disruptive algae blooms.

Today's announcement expands on the substantial efforts already underway to help farmers implement conservation practices that benefit water quality. Already this year, NRCS has devoted approximately $7.6 million in financial assistance for producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin across a range of conservation practices like cover crops and nutrient management.

The funding is being made through the Farm Bill's Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and will allow NRCS to help farmers apply selected conservation practices shown to help water quality, such as planting cover crops, adding gypsum to soil, implementing conservation tillage or no-till systems on crop fields, installing agricultural drainage water management systems, and implementing nutrient management plans. On average, farmers and ranchers contribute half the cost of implementing conservation practices.

Between 2009 and 2014, NRCS has invested approximately $57 million through Farm Bill Programs in the Lake Erie Basin. Studies are showing that between 2009 and 2014, the new steps farmers are taking with NRCS assistance have reduced annual nutrient and sediment losses by approximately 7 million pounds of nitrogen, 1.2 million pounds of phosphorus, and 488,000 tons of sediment in the Lake Erie Basin.

In addition to this targeted funding, NRCS is also leveraging partner investments through the new nation-wide Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) through a project benefiting water quality by reducing the runoff of phosphorous into the waterways in the western Lake Erie basin. NRCS is investing $17.5 million into this project -- the largest investment in the first round of RCPP -- which is joined by state governments and other partners.

See also:

"USDA seeks partnerships for critical wetland protection, restoration program"

"USDA invests $21M for water conservation, resilience across drought-stricken states"

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