Agricultural conservation will positively impact water quality in the Kalamazoo Watershed
ALLEGAN, Mich. – The Allegan Conservation District (ACD) and Delta Institute will use market-based solutions to increase conservation practices on farm fields in the Kalamazoo River Watershed located primarily in Allegan County near Lake Allegan and the Kalamazoo River, through an innovative “reverse auction.”
The project is an effort to reduce phosphorus runoff and soil erosion to help farmers protect water quality, according to Laura Campbell, manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department of Michigan Farm Bureau, noting it builds on a similar performance-based conservation grant program conducted previously within Allegan County’s Rabbit River Watershed.
Local farmers participating in that project were able to reduce sediment run-off by estimated 1,700 tons through the implementation of cover crop practices on 1,067 acres, while also integrating reduced tillage and no-till practices on another 1,530 acres. (That program is highlighted in this video produced by Michigan Farm Bureau, a key project partner.)
“Market-based conservation programs provide farmers with new ways to try stewardship and conservation practices,” Campbell said. “Projects like this help farmers keep sediment and nutrients on fields and out of waterways and expand opportunities for farmers to participate on their own terms with local conservation technicians.”
Unlike a typical cost share program that pays a flat percentage of the cost of a conservation practice, Campbell says the “reverse auction” concept maximizes water quality improvements by comparing payments to performance-based results.
“Performance-based programs are a targeted approach to investing in conservation when traditional funding is limited,” Campbell shared. “Instead of paying for specific farm practices, this concept directs payments that are based on the net environmental improvements resulting from a comprehensive set of practices.”
Farmers participating in the auction submit a bid reflecting their cost to install new conservation practices, such as cover crops or filter strips. The bidding period for the new Kalamazoo River Watershed project is expected to open in early December 2020 and close February 28, 2021.
Using funds from a grant through the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Delta Institute, a non-profit environmental organization focused on water-quality improvement, will select and purchase winning producer bids based on the cost effectiveness of the practice and the amount of nutrient and sediment run-off achieved.
“The launch of the reverse auction represents an opportunity to build on the partnerships built throughout Allegan County’s farming community,” said ACD Watershed Technician Brian Talsma. “Success here will demonstrate, yet again, another effective method to fund conservation efforts and improve water quality in this and surrounding watersheds.”
“Our efforts in Allegan County demonstrate how conservation programs can be implemented in an innovative way that prioritizes practice performance and associated environmental outcomes, rather than simply how many acres are enrolled,” said Senior Specialist Olga Lyandres of Delta Institute. “Our hope is that similar programs will become more readily available in agricultural communities throughout the Midwest.”
ACD will host the reverse auction for farm fields located near Lake Allegan and the Kalamazoo River. Farm Bureau members located in townships in the project area should look for a flyer and more information to be sent by mail in the next couple of weeks.
The project team will host informational meetings on December 10 and January 7. Please contact Brian Talsma at (269) 941-6108 or [email protected], or check out the project’s website for more information.
This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement GL00E02796 to Delta Institute. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does the EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.