Major water quality initiative announced for Saginaw Bay in Michigan State

Under a $20-million Farm Bill partnership, leaders from The Nature Conservancy and the Michigan Agri-Business Association have announced a major new initiative to help farmers and agribusinesses protect and improve water quality in the Saginaw Bay.

LANSING, MI, May 4, 2015 -- Under a $20-million Farm Bill partnership, leaders from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Michigan Agri-Business Association (MABA) today announced a major new initiative to help farmers and agribusinesses protect and improve water quality in the Saginaw Bay.

Under the new initiative in the Saginaw Bay, certified crop advisors will have new tools to directly assist their Saginaw Bay and Thumb area customers in accessing funding for on-farm conservation practices. The RCPP aims to enroll 25,500 acres in new agricultural land management practices in the coming five years and expects that those changes will result in keeping approximately 2,500 tons of sediment on the land and more than 17,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the water.

The Saginaw Bay watershed is the largest watershed in Michigan, comprised of 5.5 million acres across 22 counties. More than 900,000 people rely on it for drinking water. About half of land in the watershed is used for agricultural production, a major regional job creator. The unique "win-win" scenario provided by the new water quality initiative will protect and improve the water supply and provide new opportunities for farmers and agribusinesses to lead on conservation.

"Michigan agriculture deeply values water quality, and this innovative public-private partnership will do even more to protect critical areas like the Saginaw Bay," said Jim Byrum, president of MABA. "Boosting conservation on farms throughout the region will protect a clean water supply for communities, sustain the health of the Saginaw Bay, and demonstrate agriculture's continued leadership in protecting our environment. The engagement of the private sector in this project is exciting and brings a new dimension to conservation programs."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a key partner in the program. TNC and MABA will work with local USDA staff to provide needed information to crop advisors and prepare them to share information with customers. Farmers will be able to sign up for conservation cost share under the program in fall 2015.

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