Senator Stabenow Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect Michigan Land and Water in the 2018 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 17th — U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry joined her Agriculture Committee colleague U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – an innovative approach to conservation authored by Senator Stabenow in the 2014 Farm Bill. The bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act will provide more resources for partners to expand the reach of conservation projects, while cutting red-tape and increasing flexibility to attract new participants. In Michigan, current investments have already leveraged over $100 million from public and private sources for eight projects across the state.

“This initiative is one of the largest commitments ever made to protecting our land and water and is one of the biggest Farm Bill success stories in Michigan,” said Senator Stabenow. “Businesses, non-profits and conservation leaders are working alongside farmers at the local level to improve water quality in our Great Lakes and create new habitats for hunting and fishing. This new bill incorporates ideas we’ve heard from current participants to pave the way for even more innovative conservation work.”

“Our farmers and producers have an innate understanding of how to best care for the land they rely on to feed and fuel our world,” said Senator Ernst. “As we have seen in Iowa, the RCPP is a successful and cost-effective approach to encourage voluntary and proactive conservation. Such success makes it critically important to further develop the RCPP in order to continue incentivizing rural and urban partnerships, and allow greater flexibility in their efforts to improve water quality and soil health.”

The 2014 Farm Bill created a first-of-its-kind approach to conservation through partnerships between agriculture and conservation groups to improve water quality, restore habitats for hunting and fishing, and protect the Great Lakes. These locally-led partnerships leverage private and public dollars to bring together partners to address regional conservation issues. Since its inception, regional conservation initiatives have leveraged more than $1.2 billion in private funding and brought together over 2,000 diverse partners to address local conservation goals.

In Michigan alone, eight projects have received over $55 million in federal funding, which is matched by over $55 million in partner contributions:

· Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative: $17.5 million

· Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership: $10 million

· The Tribal Stream and Michigan Fruitbelt Collaborative: $8 million

· Lower Grand River Watershed Habitat Restoration: $8 million

· St. Joseph Watershed Conservation Partnership: $6.8 million

· Improving Forest Health for Wildlife Resources in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin: $5 million

· Training Foresters to Enhance the Sustainable Management of Private Forest Land: $1 million

· The Huron River Initiative: $1.8 million

The bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act includes suggestions from current partners to make the program work better for producers. The bill eliminates burdensome program requirements and streamlines contracts, cutting red tape and providing more flexibility for farmers implementing conservation practices.

Additionally, the bill targets resources to expand conservation work and strengthens the focus on targeted outcomes such as improved water quality, drought resilience, and wildlife habitat. In an effort to bring more participants into the program, the bill also creates incentives for more diverse partnerships and facilitates innovative approaches to conservation through a new pilot grant program.

For more information, find the bill summary fact sheet here and the bill text here.

The bipartisan bill is supported by the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Nature Conservancy, and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, in addition to more than 70 other stakeholders.

Carl Bednarski, President, Michigan Farm Bureau: “On behalf of Michigan Farm Bureau’s 44,000 farming families, we thank Senator Stabenow for her continued support for voluntary conservation programs, including her leadership for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP has been an important conservation tool for Michigan that’s allowed us to focus additional resources in areas such as the Western Lake Erie Basin. Michigan Farm Bureau supports the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and feel it benefits agriculture and resource protection. We appreciate Ranking Member Stabenow’s dedication to RCPP. We look forward to working with her on making this program work for farmers and the environment.”

Helen Taylor, Michigan State Director, The Nature Conservancy: “We want to thank Senator Stabenow for introducing this important conservation legislation and her ongoing leadership in agricultural conservation efforts. A healthy, clean environment and productive, prosperous agriculture are both critical to Michigan’s future, and tools like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program are critical in helping us achieve both.”

Glen Chown, Executive Director, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy: “The Regional Conservation Partnership Program that Senator Stabenow created in the last Farm Bill has increased our ability to protect critical farmland and improve water quality. We welcome her efforts in the 2018 Farm Bill to strengthen and streamline the delivery program systems.”

Marcy Hamilton, Senior Planner, Southwest Michigan Planning Commission: “Since 1994, the Friends of the St. Joe River has brought together stakeholders to protect and improve the St. Joseph River Watershed. Because farmland accounts for over 70% of the land that drains to the St. Joseph River, working with agricultural producers is key. In 2014, RCPP provided a unique opportunity for these diverse partners to collectively leverage their resources with federal funding to reduce sediment and nutrients to waterways, establish better irrigation management and improve wildlife habitat. We look forward to working with Senator Stabenow to strengthen this important conservation partnership in the 2018 Farm Bill.”


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