This web meeting, hosted by the Caucus’s Task Force on Nutrient Management focused on the different approaches state’s in the region are doing to reduce nutrient inflow into the Great Lakes.
Senator Dan Lauwers told us about Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). A voluntary program initiated in 1998, MEAP recognizes farmers stewardship of their land and helps them adopt cost-effective practices that reduce erosion and runoff into ponds, streams, and rivers. This, in turn, helps farmers comply with state and federal laws. The program begins with the farmers attending an education workshop, then inviting a local MAEAP technician to tour your farm. This is followed by the famer implementing changes or practices recommended by the technician. Then the land is verified as MEAP certified. Farmers are provided with technical assistance and educational programs to achieve verification. Reverification occurs every 5 years.
The state of Michigan contracts with local conservation districts so that the farmer works with local experts to achieve verification. To date there are 5910 farms verified, covering more than a million acres. The program is self-funded through a fertilizer and pesticide fees. While this is totally voluntary, it provides land owners with legislated certainty in case of accidental discharges or if a watershed is declared impaired.
Wisconsin provides $750,000 a year to producer-led groups that focus on nonpoint source pollution abatement activities through the Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant Program. A minimum of 5 farmers in the same watershed have to collaborate to receive up to $40,000 to advance conservation solutions. Thirty-one projects have been funded since 2016. Dr. Don Niles a veterinarian and dairy producer in one of the densest dairy counties in the nation discussed the producer-led group called Peninsula Pride farms. This group of 46 farmers in Kewaunee and southern Door counties organized as a non-profit organization to improve surface and ground water quality. The group includes 50 percent of the cows and 50 percent of the acreage in the region.
Peninsula Pride provides its members grants to complete additional water quality efforts with funding coming from the state funds as well as donations from agricultural businesses that support the efforts. Members focus on improving soil health, reducing phosphorus loss and minimize surface effluent. In the last two years, this producer-led organization has over 80,000 acres covered by Nutrient Management Plans as well as installed more than 18,000 acres of cover crops.
Angie Becker Kudelka, Assistant Director of Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources provided us information on Minnesota’s mandatory riparian protection law. An initiative of Governor Mark Dayton in 2015, it mandates 50 ft of vegetative buffer along public waters and 16.5 ft on waters of public drainage systems. Local technical assistance and funding was provided to land owners to install the perennial vegetation that protects Minnesota’s waters from surface nutrient pollution. In 75 counties, local officials oversee implementation and the state enforces the law in the remaining counties that decided not to be the enforcing body.
Minnesota also has a voluntary Agriculture Water Quality Certification Program that is similar to Michigan’s, providing financial and technical assistance as well as regulatory certainty to participants. It has over 750,000 acres enrolled by 1049 land owners.
The next webinar, on May 7 will cover programs in Ohio, New York and Ontario.
The web meeting was the second of six planned for 2021; the next meeting will be May 7, again hosted by the Caucus’s Task Force on Nutrient Management, which developed from the inaugural Patricia Birkholz Institute’s focus on that subject.