Agricultural Impact Reduction Program
Statewide, MI

Grantee: Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association
Basin Program Funds: $ 25,000
Non-federal Funds: $ 82,787
Project Duration: 07/1999 - 06/2000
Status: complete

Problem Statement
Nonpoint pollution from agricultural sources such as sediment from cropland, fertilizer, pesticide or bacterial contamination of runoff water from pasturelands pose significant threats to the health of freshwater systems, particularly in Michigan, which has close to one half of the 22 million acres of agricultural land in the Great Lakes basin. Sustainable agriculture can solve some of these problems but it requires a solid knowledge base to be allowed to function.

For decades, agriculture in the United States has been dominated by what some call "industrial agriculture". By definition, industrial agriculture views the farm as a factory with "inputs", such as pesticides, feed, fertilizer and fuel, and "outputs", grain, produce, dairy, meet and poultry. The goal in industrial agriculture is to increase yield and decrease costs of production through monoculture, the separation of animal and plant agriculture, and by exploiting economies of scale. Farms where monoculture is practiced inevitably invite pests and usually require heavy applications of insecticides and herbicides to keep them in check. In time, these chemicals leach into the water table and contribute to a state of "nonhealth" within the region's freshwater ecosystems.

A sustainable approach to agricultural production makes sense environmentally, economically and ethically. According to research conducted by Michigan State University Extension, Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, MA and grass-roots organizations such as the Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association (MASA) sustainable agriculture has been shown to provide high yields without destroying the environment or undermining current productivity standards within the United States. It is clear that farmers who take a sustainable approach substitute knowledge for pesticides and fertilizers, enrich the soil producing healthy plants resistant to disease, thereby saving money and protecting the environment.

The goal of this project was to provide educational and trial opportunities in sustainable agriculture practices to farmers and agriculture professionals who directly or indirectly impact the health of Michigan's fresh water ecosystems. This was done through educational meetings and seminars, the publication and distribution of articles on sustainable farming and through funding sustainable farming demonstration projects. This project sought to increase policy maker's knowledge about the agricultural influence on the Great Lakes basin's fresh water ecosystems.

MASA conducted nine educational meetings for farmers and agricultural professionals, which consisted of field days at various farms and orchards demonstrating sustainable farming techniques. Some of the techniques demonstrated included the elimination of pesticide use in a cherry orchard and the use of permanent crops to eliminate the need for soil cultivation. Pollution prevention specialists from agencies throughout the Great Lakes basin attended a tour that showcased an alternative agricultural model. In addition, MASA selected 17 on - farm research and demonstration projects for funding in 1999-2000, five of which specifically addressed soil quality issues that will reduce agricultural erosion and associated pollution. MASA also provided testimony to Michigan's Senate Agriculture Preservation Task Force on the benefits of an agricultural system that reduces agriculture's impact on the Great Lakes. MASA serves the Michigan Organic Advisory Council, the Great Lakes Basin Whole Farm Planning network, Michigan Lakes and Streams Association, and the Lake Michigan Forum. MASA also conducted an inventory and assessment of agriculture in the Lake Michigan basin for the Lake Michigan Forum.

Approximately 380 farmers, agricultural professionals and specialists attended a total of nine educational meetings. Summaries of the 17 on - farm research and demonstration projects were featured in Michigan's Farm and Country Journal, which is distributed to 10,000 people. The five on - farm research and demonstration projects that specifically addressed soil quality issues produced research that will be helpful in reducing agricultural erosion and associated pollution. Several of MASA's demonstration farms were featured locally or by Michigan State University during educational meetings unrelated to this project. MASA provided information packets to six legislators in Michigan and provided a tour for 60 pollution prevention specialists from the Great Lakes region. A total of 67,000 farmers and policy makers were reached during the grant period through the educational meetings. In addition, a projected 23,000 farmers will be reached beyond the grant period. The Michigan Lakes and Streams Association requested MASA present this project at its Annual Meeting in April 2000, providing an opportunity to reach some of Michigan Lakes and Streams Association's 120,000 members.

Best management practices implemented as a result of this project include 220 acres of filter strips, 420 acres of conservation tillage, 1100 acres of vegetative stabilization, and 220 acres have been established in permanent cover. Project personnel estimate that 320 tons of soil, 3,200 pounds of phosphorus and 640 pounds of nitrogen will be saved over the lifetime of this project.


Great Lakes Commission des Grands Lacs.  2805 S. Industrial Highway, Suite 100.  Ann Arbor, MI  48104-6791.  phone: 734/971.9135.  fax: 734/971-9150. Join the Friends of the Great Lakes GLIN Partner