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Michigan receives federal funds to revamp water conservation on farmland

Ivan Bandura

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has announced it will receive $40 million from the United State Department of Agriculture to reinstate a water conservation program for Michigan farmers.

Michigan’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) suspended new applications six years ago due to a lack of funding at both the state and federal level.

The new money will provide farmers with tools like filter strips and buffers to reduce runoff into waterways.

John Switze, conservation manager in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said six years ago the program covered over 79,000 and has been significantly reduced.

"We're somewhere in the range of 23,000 acres that are currently enrolled in some of these older contracts, and more acres continued to expire each year," said Switzer. "Those acres in a lot of it just kind of went back to cropland." At its peak, over 6,000 farmers were enrolled in the program.

In a written statement, Gary McDowell, director of MDARD, said “Michigan is excited to bring CREP back to our state to help farmers protect our natural resources. Thanks to the support of the Governor and our legislative partners, we’re going to be able to leverage $5 million for a $40 million federal investment,” said McDowell. “After six years without CREP, this is a huge win for water quality in Michigan and will help the state reach our 40 percent phosphorus reduction entering the Western Lake Erie Basin from farmland.”

Farmers who enroll in the program will be provided with conversation tools and the state will pay an annual soil rental rate for the land they agree to conserve.

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