Amid the flooded fields of northwest Ohio in late June, officials from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) announced $17.5 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help protect water quality in the western basin of Lake Erie.
The five-year RCPP agreement was signed in May and is now ready to assist farmers in installing a variety of best management practices that will keep nutrients on fields and improve water quality. Program enrollment officially kicks off for Ohio, Michigan and Indiana farmers in designated watersheds on Wednesday, July 1, and runs through Friday, July 17, and farmers will be able to sign up at their local USDA Service Center.
This multi-state project includes more than 40 collaborating public and private sector organizations with representation from Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, state and local governments, as well as nonprofit entities, universities and private sector businesses.
These organizations have committed resources to leverage $17.5 million in federal funds by contributing more than $28 million to the programs for the reduction of phosphorus and sediment to improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Project partners recommended USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practices and innovative demonstration practices that farmers can apply for through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). The financial and technical assistance available through these programs support conservation practices that protect soil health, water quality and quantity, as well as prevent fish and wildlife habitat degradation. Nutrient management practices such as cover crops, drainage water management structures, blind tile inlets, placement of phosphorus below the soil surface using variable rate technology (VRT) and animal waste management are the primary conservation focus available through these programs.
The targeted approach focuses efforts on the 855,000 acres that have been identified as the most critical areas to treat within the larger seven million acre watershed. This new RCPP project expands access to public and private technical assistance, new and ongoing innovative conservation practices and expertise for modeling and evaluating outcomes to farmers in these critical sub-watersheds.
Informational brochures will be distributed to raise awareness of this important multi-year project and encourage farmers and landowners to participate in the new conservation program. Agricultural producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin are eligible to apply at wleb.org or they can visit their local USDA Service Center.