By Emily Reinart
We sure have a lot of acronyms here in the ag community, and I mean a LOT. But there’s one I type so often the letters are worn clean off my computer keyboard: MAEAP.
That’s the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, if you’re unfamiliar — a program designed to help farmers and landowners voluntarily reduce their environmental risk.
Michigan farmers are outstanding stewards of the state’s land and water resources. And when they want help identifying where on their farm they can further improve their environmental protection practices, MAEAP can help.
Supported by partners across the agriculture community, MAEAP offers free technical assistance to farmers looking to improve their game in making sure they’re doing their part to farm in an environmentally friendly manner.
You’ve likely seen the big white signs posted along roadsides across the state saying, “This Farm Is Environmentally Verified.” Maybe you’ve dug the posts to display your own farm’s MAEAP sign. I love pulling in the driveway of my family’s farm, especially at night, to see the reflection of my headlights glancing off our MAEAP sign.
Over the years MAEAP has become a model for other states nationwide. Today, 42 MAEAP technicians housed at local Conservation District offices dot Michigan’s landscape to assist farmers and landowners in reaching their stewardship goals. Thousands of farmers have started working with MAEAP techs to use practices protecting soil health and water quality within the program’s four systems: cropping, livestock, farmstead and forestry, wetlands and habitat.
Across those four systems, Michigan farmers have completed nearly 6 ,000 MAEAP verifications. In just the past five years, verified farms have put more than 1 million acres of farmland into nutrient management plans, installed nearly 4 million linear feet of buffer strips and planted more than 200,000 acres of cover crops.
These and other practices help keep 3 million pounds of phosphorus, 6 million pounds of nitrogen, and 2 million TONS of sediment on farm fields and out of waterways.
But even with all that momentum, the time has come for MAEAP’s funding to be renewed — by the end of 2021.
MAEAP is funded in part by farmers like you. Some of the fees on the fertilizers and pesticides you purchase are designated for the Freshwater Protection Fund, which puts the program’s boots on the ground: MAEAP technicians who are available to all farmers regardless of the size or type of their operation.
Michigan Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy supports MAEAP and has for quite some time, and our policy staff will be working hard this year to see that funding authorization is renewed by year’s end. It will take approval from the Michigan Legislature to continue the funding that supports the technicians, verifiers and other dedicated specialists helping farmers statewide.