Michigan Farm Bureau members have developed policy supporting the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP is a voluntary, confidential, whole-farm assessment that helps farmers achieve their stewardship goals. It is funded primarily through fees collected on pesticide registrations and fertilizer sales.
MAEAP plays an important role in protecting water quality, but nutrient loading in Saginaw Bay and the Western Lake Erie Basin is a growing concern. MAEAP does not receive enough funding to pay for both statewide MAEAP and water quality programs to address specific regional issues. Member policy supports MAEAP continuing as a statewide, whole-farm program, so any program addressing specific watershed issues would therefore need to be funded separately.
Research has shown programs that are difficult to participate in, implement only one kind of practice, or provide only short-term funding do not effectively improve long-term water quality. Also, voluntary water quality programs should not effectively become regulations by penalizing farmers who do not participate. Any program to address specific water quality issues must be carefully managed to both encourage farmers to participate and to produce long-lasting results.
Thoughts to Consider
- What kind of incentive is most effective to encourage long-term participation in water quality protection practices?
- How could a regional water quality program with a specific goal, such as helping farmers with practices to reduce nutrients entering Lake Erie or Saginaw Bay, set reduction goals or find funding without becoming regulatory or penalizing farmers who do not participate?
- Would farmers in your region prefer a program that incentivizes on-farm practices, such as tillage and nutrient management, cover crops and drainage control, or one that incentivizes edge-of-field or easement practices, such as buffer strips, purchasing easements to build nutrient-trapping features and retiring sensitive areas along the edge of fields?