Ranking Member Stabenow Applauds USDA Investment to Reduce Algae Blooms in Lake Erie

Friday, August 14, 2015

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $5 million investment to help farmers stop harmful algae blooms from forming and expanding in Lake Erie. The funding, provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will help farmers in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana take steps to help prevent phosphorous and nitrogen runoff into the Western Lake Erie Basin. This announcement comes two weeks after Senator Stabenow led a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to continue efforts to address these blooms and help improve water quality in the watershed.

"No one understands the importance of clean water like our farmers and producers," said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. "That's why this investment is so important. While this problem cannot be solved overnight, by taking proactive steps now to manage runoff, we can begin to help prevent future blooms in Lake Erie and other parts of the Great Lakes and its watersheds. I am grateful that the Secretary acted swiftly on our request for these additional funds and I will continue working with our farmers and producers, as well as conservation groups and other partners, to improve the health of our lakes."

According to USDA, the funding will be awarded to the three states in the Western Lake Erie Basin with Michigan receiving $500,000, Ohio receiving $3,000,000, and Indiana receiving $1,500,000. The funding will be used to help farmers plant cover crops, add gypsum to soil, implement conservation tillage or no-till systems on crop fields, install agricultural drainage water management systems, and implement nutrient management plans.

Today's announcement builds off of the work already being done to help the federal government, states, local partners, and farmers put in place long-term approaches to improve water quality. Earlier this year, Senator Stabenow announced $17.5 million for the Western Lake Erie Basin through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which was created by the 2014 Farm Bill. Through this initiative, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is leading more than 40 local partners in helping farmers implement conservation practices to reduce phosphorus and sediment runoff into Lake Erie.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which was reauthorized by Senator Stabenow's 2014 Farm Bill, provides farmers and ranchers assistance to implement conservation practices. Since 2009, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service has invested more than $57 million in the Lake Erie Basin through Farm Bill programs, helping to ensure our families have safe, reliable drinking water.