Feds offer $2 million to limit phosphorus runoffWritten by Erik Gable | | email@example.com
DUNDEE, Mich. — The federal government will provide $2 million in grants to Michigan, Ohio and Indiana farmers to limit phosphorus runoff in the hopes of reducing algae blooms in Lake Erie, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday in a visit to Dundee.
Vilsack spoke at the Cabela’s store in Dundee, joined by several lawmakers, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo.
“Our beautiful natural resources are critical to our economy, to our jobs,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. She said Michigan has more than 1 million hunters and anglers supporting more than 46,000 jobs.
Kaptur talked about Lake Erie’s role in the tourism industry.
“Lake Erie tourism, right now, is an $11 billion business, employing more than $119,000 people, and that’s really an underestimate,” Kaptur said.
She said Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky is “the largest employer now in the center part of Lake Erie on the Ohio side.”
Phosphorus overload from farm runoff is believed to be a key cause of algae growth in western Lake Erie that has reduced oxygen levels, led to foul-smelling mats of rotting algae washing ashore, and made the water appear so green that it’s been described as looking like pea soup.
“We’re all very concerned about what’s happened to the western Lake Erie basin in terms of algal blooms,” Brown said.
Vilsack acknowledged the country’s fiscal problems but argued the U.S. should be careful about cutting funds for conservation.
“Conservation is one area where we have to be very careful that we don’t reduce funding to the point that we’re not as effective as we could be,” Vilsack said.
“Remember, a $730 billion industry is helped and assisted by conservation,” he said, referring to outdoor recreation.
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said that “we have great, thoughtful, careful and decent farmers who want to do right” and that the planned federal grants for phosphorus reduction “will make their efforts to preserve and protect their share of our future into a valuable reality.”
Vilsack said applications for funding will be due by April 27.
According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, measures that can reduce phosphorus runoff include:
- Placing fertilizer and manure below the soil surface.
- Not applying phosphorus when levels in the soil are already high.
- Planting buffers and filter strips along ditches and streams.
- Planting diverse varieties of cover crops.
NRCS information can be found online at www.nrcs.usda.gov.