Rep. Miller Introduces Legislation to Promote Environment-Focused Farming Practices within the Great Lakes Region

Apr 22, 2013 Issues: Agriculture, Great Lakes

Legislation to Protect our Great Lakes from Harmful Algae Blooms

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Candice Miller (MI-10) reintroduced the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, H.R. 1647, which promotes a proactive program administered by the states that helps farms of all sizes and all commodities voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.  Specifically, this legislation would encourage states to developed voluntary agricultural assurance programs throughout the Great Lakes Basin and aid producers who choose to participate.

“American farmers literally make their living off the land and as such they were our nation’s first environmentalists. Our fertile soil, temperate climate, and our magnificent Great Lakes all contribute to making the state of Michigan’s agriculture industry a great success story.  In order to make certain we have a vital agricultural industry long into the future Michigan farmers have been leading the way to protect our Great Lakes from damage caused by algae blooms which create dead zones in our lakes.

“This year’s Earth Day serves as an important reminder that we must do what is necessary to ensure that the health of our environment for future generations, which includes being responsible stewards of the lands and waterways.  Voluntary environmental assurance programs in Michigan have successfully assisted agriculture producers statewide to adopt better conservation practices, but that has not been the case across the Great Lakes region.  My bill would build off of the success of these assurance programs in Michigan and provide the federal government an opportunity to promote these types of state programs regionally.  These voluntary, state-developed agricultural assurance programs throughout the region will help reduce nutrient runoff, such as phosphorus into the Great Lakes which is the lead nutrient that causes algae bloom.

“One needs only to look at the results in Michigan where our assurance programs have benefited our lands by enhancing cropland productivity while simultaneously protecting our air, water and soil.  My goal for this legislation is that it should be included as a part of the Farm Bill reauthorization to be considered in Congress this year.  Additionally, this program would not create any new spending; instead it would redirect existing funds from other conservation programs.  These resources would be directed to the various Great Lake states and producers who wish to voluntarily participate in this type of program.

Miller’s bill provides assistance for all the Great Lake states that choose to administer state-developed voluntary assurance programs on farms and provide resources to aid participating agricultural producers.  Specifically, states would be able to apply for grants within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, an existing conservation program to help fund and administrate the program, as well as educate participants on the benefits of these types of assurance programs.  Producers who choose to participate would also benefit from a priority on federally-funded cost-share applications for conservation projects.

Voluntary state developed assurance programs, such as Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), have been widely successful at taking proactive steps to help adopt better conservation practices in farming, as well as reducing soil erosion and decreasing nutrient runoff.  Building upon programs like MAEAP gives us the opportunity at the federal level to help promote these types of programs, not just in Michigan, but throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

“The fact that waters around Michigan have seen a steep decline in algae blooms since this program began is proof that Michigan’s MAEAP program works.  I believe the application of this type of program across all of the Great Lakes states would be of great benefit for the water quality of our magnificent Great Lakes.”