USDA provides funding for farmers in Western Lake Erie Basin

April 6th, 2016

News Coverage:

April 5, 2016

USDA provides funding for farmers in Western Lake Erie Basin

KPC News

HAMILTON — Indiana’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is taking applications through April 29 for funding to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin

Approximately 821,500 acres in Steuben, Noble, DeKalb, Allen, Wells and Adams counties, of which about 445,800 acres is agriculture land, is in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The southeastern part of Steuben County is located in the watershed.

The USDA has pledged a $41 million investment in a three-year initiative to support the work of farmers in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The initiative helps implement science-based conservation measures to reduce runoff entering the region’s waterways.

Indiana will receive 12 percent of the funds based on the percentage of land located within the basin.

This funding is in addition to the $36 million the NRCS has already planned to make available in the basin through the 2014 Farm Bill, for a combined three-year investment of $77 million to improve water quality and support sustainable production in the basin.

“The challenges that face Lake Erie require science-based solutions and a commitment from all partners to address the factors that impact water quality. Indiana’s farmers have already made great strides in helping to reduce runoff, and with this new investment they will be able to do even more,” said Jane Hardisty, state conservationist.

Since 2009, NRCS Indiana has invested nearly $12 million in technical and financial assistance to farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin through Farm Bill programs. The conservation improvements made through 465 conservation contracts now cover more than 118,382 acres. Indiana farmers, landowners and partners have stepped up by installing over 2,300 conservation practices which reduced annual nutrient and sediment losses by an estimated 428,000 pounds of nitrogen, 216,000 pounds of phosphorous, and 424 million pounds of sediment between 2013-2015, said a USDA news release. These savings result in cleaner water leaving farmlands in the basin area.

The initiative further sharpens the focus of NRCS investments and helps increase the impact of ongoing work by conservation groups and state and local governments.

“Results from the Conservation Effects Assessment Project report shows voluntary conservation is making significant headway in reducing nutrient and sediment loss from farms, but there is opportunity to improve conservation management across the basin and no single conservation solution will meet the needs of each field and farm,” said Hardisty.

This partnership will work with data from the CEAP report and other sources along with the recommendations of farmers and other conservation partners to match the right conservation solution to the unique qualities of each field to maximize the impact of each dollar invested.