According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, efforts to clean up the Great Lakes have been paying off. Over the past several decades, soil erosion and pollution into the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways has caused a major environmental crisis in the region. As a result, the USDA created several conservation programs to encourage farmers to reduce soil erosion into Great Lakes waterways and promoted better nutrient management to reduce the amount of fertilizer runoff into surrounding lakes and streams.
The recent report indicates that these conservation efforts have made a significant impact on the environmental health of the Great Lakes. The study indicates that sediment discharge has been reduced by 50 percent and phosphorus and nitrogen pollution have declined by 36 and 37 percent respectively.
In a statement by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, “The Great Lakes Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) study confirms that good conservation planning and implementation have reduced loadings of sediment and nutrients to waterways throughout the region. The Administration appreciates the actions of every farmer who is stepping up to implement conservation practices, protect vital farmlands and strengthen local economies. At the same time, we also see opportunities for even further progress.”
In addition to providing concrete results, the study also indicated that large-scale conservation programs targeting specific regions were more effective than independent programs. Tailoring specific plans to specific regions, USDA spokespeople said, provides the best results.
While funding for these sorts of conservation programs may be in danger, USDA officials hope that they will be able to continue their work regardless of future budget cuts.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer