MDARD explains plans for new $25 million pilot


MDARD explains plans for new $25 million pilot

The Michigan Department of Agriculture is outlining its plan to spend an additional $25 million allocated in the bipartisan budget in September.

The Agricultural Nutrient Best Management Voluntary Practices Program will serve as a pilot to focus on phosphorus reduction and water quality improvements in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

Director Gary McDowell says the state’s long-term goal is to reduce phosphorus going into Lake Erie to 40 percent of 2008 levels by 2025.

“Right now under our MAEAP program it’s all based on verifications, which really has nothing to do with outcomes,” he says.  “We want to focus on outcomes to show that we are actually improving water quality.

The funds are planned to be used for cost-sharing and other incentives to assist farmers implement additional conservation practices, technical support, soil or water testing, and education outreach and training.  McDowell says the department is planning on using water monitoring stations throughout watersheds to study progress.

“If we put these practices in place and we can see significant reductions coming out of those watersheds, I would assume that we can say that our practices are working and that would but more pressure on the other groups,” he explains.

McDowell testified last week during the House Ag Committee’s joint meeting with the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Lawmakers asked the department to provide more specific details for how funds will be spent and how success will be measured in a follow-up hearing.