01.16.15

Senator Stabenow: Historic Investment Marks the Start of a New Era in Water Conservation

2014 Farm Bill Program Makes $17.5 Million Lake Erie Investment

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry joined U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden, along with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, to highlight a historic $17.5 million Lake Erie investment made possible by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program is a new, innovative conservation initiative that was authored by then Chairwoman Stabenow in the 2014 Farm Bill.
 
“Today’s announcement is unprecedented and will truly make an impact in Lake Erie and across the Great Lakes Region,” said Stabenow. “By bringing over 40 local partners together, we will be able to improve water quality in Lake Erie, preserve wildlife habitats, and keep soil healthy for generations to come.”
 
Earlier this year, a toxic algae bloom was discovered in Lake Erie that prevented residents in the Greater Toledo area and Southeast Michigan from drinking or using their tap water. Funding from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program will be used to reduce the risk of harmful algae blooms by working with farmers to limit sources of nutrient and sediment runoff and institute best management practices.

The Lake Erie project is one of over 100 projects announced this week to receive $370 million in Regional Conservation Partnership Program funds. USDA will provide $1.2 billion in funding for the program over the five-year life of the Farm Bill. This funding can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. Through the program, partners propose conservation projects to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat, and other related natural resources on private lands. Additionally, USDA has designated eight Critical Conservation Areas across the country, which provide an opportunity for additional funding to address water quality issues. These include the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay Watershed, Mississippi River Basin, Longleaf Pine Range, Columbia River Basin, California Bay Delta, Prairie Grasslands, and the Colorado River Basin. A full list of awarded projects can be found here.
 
Sen. Stabenow’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program is part of a larger effort to find collaborative solutions to address water quality issues across the country. Last month, Sen. Stabenow held a hearing to examine ways farmers can take advantage of voluntary conservation programs to improve water quality in lakes, rivers and streams. More information can be found here.