Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Michigan farms lead the way on pollution-fighting practices

by Candice Miller on March 22, 2012

Detroit Free Press

Our great nation and state have been blessed with some of the most fertile farmland in the world. Clearly, our rich soil and temperate climate, along with the hard work of our state’s farmers, have made Michigan’s agriculture industry a great success story. In fact, today agriculture represents the second leading industry in our state after manufacturing and has actually been growing during the economic downturn.

In addition to being blessed with fertile farmlands, our state has been doubly blessed with the magnificent natural treasure of our Great Lakes. Protecting and preserving the Great Lakes is something close to every Michiganian’s heart, including our farmers, who are some of the best conservationists. Runoff of plant nutrients, such as phosphorous found in fertilizers, can lead to problems in the lakes, and Michigan farmers have stepped up to limit the role agriculture plays in this problem.

Modern technologies, as well as advanced farming practices, contribute to the drastic improvements in reducing soil erosion from farm fields and various types of runoff. These practices have benefited farmers by enhancing cropland productivity while simultaneously preserving the environment — and. in fact, Michigan has been a leader in conservation farming practices.

Voluntary conservation programs such as Michigan’s Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program help farms adopt better conservation practices that strive to prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks. Furthermore, MAEAP balances efficient production with sound environmental practices that protect our air, water and soil.

With more than 1,000 Michigan farms that have completed the MAEAP process, the practices adopted have greatly reduced erosion, keeping more soil in the fields, where it belongs. In addition, practices implemented through MAEAP decrease fertilizer runoff, like phosphorous, which can contribute to algae growth in our Great Lakes. This is specifically a growing problem that Lake Erie is battling.

Looking at and building on the success of MAEAP gives us the opportunity at the federal level to help promote these voluntary agriculture assurance programs, not just in Michigan but throughout the Great Lakes basin. That is why I recently introduced HR 4162, the Great Lakes Assurance Program Verification Act, and will push for it to be considered as a part of the debate in the upcoming Farm Bill.

If enacted, this bill would allow states to be given a priority use of funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program, an existing conservation program, to promote and assist voluntary state-developed agricultural assurance programs throughout the Great Lakes states, as well as create a priority for conservation funds for producers who are working toward environmental assurance certification.

MAEAP has been widely successful in assisting farmers throughout Michigan to improve their practices, and this legislation will build on that success by providing additional tools to administer the program to states within the Great Lakes basin, as well as to the producers who voluntarily participate.

Farmers have always been important stewards of the land. Not only is their livelihood connected to the condition of the soil, but they have a vested interest in protecting our environment, including our lakes and streams. The Great Lake basin is home to vast landscapes, and Michigan can be proud that its farmers have led the way in protecting our soil, streams and lakes.

I believe it is time for others to have the opportunity to follow the lead of our great Michigan farmers. It is our job as members of Congress to ensure that they have the proper tools to get the job done. I stand committed to working with my colleagues to get this legislation passed, and I look forward to assisting our farmers in their efforts to care for our environment.

Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township, represents Michigan’s 10th congressional district in the U.S. House.

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