Farmers need to know the effectiveness of their conservation practices to show they are protecting water quality. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has encouraged states to adopt market-based water quality management to increase partnerships between regulated sources like wastewater treatment plants and farms to better manage water quality protection, collecting data and using this information poses several challenges:
Models only provide estimates of practice impacts, and have difficulty identifying field-specific conditions, or accounting for variables like density or depth of tile drainage or effects of unusual weather
Edge-of-field and in-stream monitoring is expensive, time consuming, and can makes farmers concerned the data will be used for regulatory purposes
Partnerships to reduce nutrient loading can be complicated by liability questions such as who is responsible if one party does not meet their obligations or how long an agreement must last
Markets for nutrient credits have difficulty being effective without regulatory limits to stabilize prices and motivate funders
Water quality issues are getting more attention than ever before, both at the local level where activist groups protest farm activity, and at the state and regional level as pressure increases to reduce Great Lakes algal blooms. More farmer participation in local watershed planning and new market-based solutions could provide needed funding for practices, but these programs need the ability to accurately determine practice impacts to make the solutions effective.
Contact: Laura Campbell | 517-679-5332
How can data collected about watershed nutrient sources or conservation practice impacts be used to create opportunities for proactive programs while not increasing regulations?
How can Michigan farmers work with companies, utilities, or local or state agencies to create market-based nutrient reduction solutions?
What do Michigan farmers need to help them participate in watershed management planning and other programs to partner with local governments to share the story of their good stewardship and increase understanding of how agriculture fits into their plans?
MFB Policy #80 Nonpoint Source Pollution and Watershed Management
EPA guidance on water quality trading
Michigan State University’s field-specific watershed modeling tool
University of Michigan’s Detroit River Modeling Study on Nutrient Loading
Ohio EPA Nutrient Study for Major Rivers
Watershed Management Planning and watersheds with approved plans for funding