USDA announces funds for water quality effort

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TOLEDO — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $17.5 million in federal funding for a tri-state project to help protect water quality in the western basin of Lake Erie, during a press conference Jan. 16 in Toledo.

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee, and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, joined USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, local NRCS staff and project partners for the announcement.

Many partners

This multi-state project includes more than 40 collaborating public and private sector organizations with representation from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio state and local governments, as well as nonprofit entities, universities and private sector businesses.

These organizations have committed resources for the reduction of phosphorus and sediment loading, and harmful algal blooms in western Lake Erie.

Project partners will use NRCS conservation practices that farmers can implement with Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) funds to protect soil health, water quality and quantity, and prevent fish and wildlife habitat degradation.

Farm bill connection

On Jan. 14, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that this project, along with more than 100 other high-impact projects across all 50 states, will receive more than $370 million in federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

In turn, these projects will leverage an estimated $400 million in additional partner contributions to improve the nation’s water quality, support wildlife habitat and enhance the environment.

More than 600 pre-proposals were submitted for RCPP in 2014. The announcement of funding for fiscal year 2016 will be made later in the year.

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