USDA gives $41 million to help reduce nutrient runoff in Lake Erie

USDA gives $41 million to help reduce nutrient runoff in Lake Erie

(WTOL) - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is giving up $41 million to help farmers. It's Natural Resources Conservation Service made the announcement on Monday during a conference at Maumee Bay State Park.

According to the USDA, the money will add to the $36 million the agency already set aside towards keeping phosphorous out of Lake Erie.

"Things like cover crops, crop rotation, edge of field borders and buffers to reduce edge and field losses of sediment and nutrients," said Jason Weller, of the USDA's NRCS.

At this conference, the agency also released results of a study on the basin and how farmers are managing their operations. Based on the results, the USDA says nearly all cropland in the Western Lake Erie Basin has at least one conservation practice in place.

"These conservation practices in place are reducing edge of field losses, what's leaving the farm field, by upwards of 80 percent for sediment, and 75 percent for phosphorus. So it shows that they've made a lot of great progress. A lot of great results already in place to protect water quality," said Weller.

The program is voluntary, but the USDA says farmers and ranchers have been participating in great numbers.

"The key point is we all have a shared vision. That's for productive successful agriculture, but also putting in place the conservation practices that can protect Lake Erie. So we really want to prove out that this collaborative, volunteer approach can really work. And I'm really optimistic it's going to work here in the Basin," said Weller.

State and local leaders were pleased with the news of more funding to help Lake Erie. Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur both attended the meeting.

"Each and every opportunity that we try to get to heal the lake is an important step and it's another one piece of the total pie that we have to pull together," said Mayor Hicks-Hudson.

Congresswoman Kaptur says to bring the lake back to good health it's going to take a collaboration between cities and regions. Plus the development of new ways to process organic material.

"We have to kind of grow up. Ugh, we just can't throw the garbage out the back window anymore, right. We have to re purpose the materials that are a part of life on earth in this terribly, terribly important watershed, the largest in the great lakes," said Congresswoman Kaptur.

The USDA says this initiative will help landowners reduce phosphorus runoff from farms by more than 640,000 pounds each year and reduce sediment loss by over 260,000 tons over the course of the three year investment.

Sign ups for the program will begin next week in our area.

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