By KEVIN WALKER
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) announced late last month Michigan
is one of several states in the region that will benefit from Conservation Innovation
Grants (CIG) this year.
One of the grants, $328,077, was awarded to The Nature Conservancy through the
Natural Resources Conservation Service to encourage the adoption of conservation
practices by farmers through drain assessments.
The goal of the project is to recognize and encourage the establishment of conservation
practices that improve the function or reduce the maintenance costs of publicly
managed drain systems. The focus of the project will be on drainage systems in
Monroe County and the Saginaw Valley.
“Farm Bureau’s member-written policy supports farmers working with local drain
commissioners on soil and conservation practices and receiving incentives to help
them recoup expenses for those practices,” said MFB’s Ag Ecology Manager Laura
“This project will look at ways to accomplish that goal, to give drain commissioners
the tools and ability to incentivize on-farm conservation practices, reduce the cost of
drain projects and maintenance and keep sediment out of waterways.”
According to information from The Nature Conservancy, a team including farmers,
drain managers and policymakers from across the Great Lakes has for years been
developing a path forward for the use of private, in-field tiling for improved drain
water management and publicly engineered drain ditches to improve flows of water,
as well as water quality, in Great Lakes Basin tributaries.
The focus with this particular grant is the Western Lake Erie Basin and the Saginaw
Valley in the Thumb region. It includes legal analyses of current drainage law,
environmental law and the financial risk to public and private drain managers. Together,
the team will identify opportunities for coordinated drainage management.
In addition to MFB, other project partners include the Cook Family Foundation, Monroe County Drain Commissioner and the Saginaw County Public Works Commissioner. Campbell described it as “one of those win-win opportunities that can provide environmental and economic benefits, and we look forward to working with the partners in the project to see it succeed.”
The not-for-profit Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) was also awarded a grant in the latest round of CIG funding.
Its award was for $503,000 for a twoyear apprenticeship program for historically underserved beginning dairy producers in Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The grant will provide for a comprehensive apprenticeship in managed-grazing dairy production including mentoring, financial advising, on-farm employment and farm transfer. DGA advertises itself as the first formal apprenticeship for farming in the nation. It receives support from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA.