Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today underscored the critical role agriculture is playing in conserving the Great Lakes and protecting Michigan's natural resources and waterways, at a quarterly meeting hosted by the Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative. Hosting the nation's top conservationist Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Stabenow said protecting Michigan's Great Lakes is a national priority critical to boosting Michigan's economy.
Chairwoman Stabenow stated: "Protecting the Great Lakes and Michigan's many miles of waterways is critical to boosting Michigan's economy and preserving the integrity of our natural resources for many generations to come. Through the implementation of critical conservation practices that prevent harmful nutrients from reaching Saginaw Bay, Michigan's farmers and landowners are on the frontlines of the fight to protect our water. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'm committed to continuing to work with Michigan's agriculture community to help lead the charge in protecting the Great Lakes."
Stabenow said the NRCS, as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been playing a critical role in developing partnerships with farmers, landowners and local agencies and organizations to conserve Michigan's natural resources and protect the Great Lakes. Touching on current efforts and giving insight into how the work being done on the ground is helping, NRCS Chief Dave White discussed how farm bill programs help farmers adopt and install cost effective practices that help conserve soil health, protect water quality, and restore wildlife habitat.
Dave White, Chief of the NRCS, said: "The Great Lakes are home to hundreds of species of fish and wildlife and provide drinking water for more than 40 million people. Michigan's farmers and landowners take pride in the Great Lakes and have shown steadfast leadership in preserving them using NRCS conservation programs. They understand that by using responsible and sustainable agriculture, they are not only helping to protect the future of agricultural production, but the health and vitality of our environment as well."
Bay County Executive Tom Hickner added: "We are very lucky to have a champion like Senator Stabenow protecting Saginaw bay, our waterways and natural resources . As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, she is a powerful voice for our community and someone we can count on for results."
Chairwoman Stabenow announced in July that the Saginaw Bay is one of only three watersheds across the country to benefit from a new national preservation and conservation effort, as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative. In June, she also announced that the USDA and NRCS strengthened its commitment to protecting and conserving the Great Lakes and wildlife resources, dedicating new technical and financial assistance to landowners and producers to implement a range of conservation practices intended to help with preserving the integrity of the region's resources. The stepped-up effort commenced with a sign-up period where Michigan farmers and landowners registered to enlist in the fight to protect the Great Lakes region.
Michael Kelly, Director of the Great Lakes office of the Conservation Fund, said: "Senator Stabenow has shown she is a proven leader and advocate for the entire Saginaw Bay region. She continues to play a critical role at the federal level protecting our water quality, while at the same time supporting our regional economy."
Gary Reif, who runs Reif Farms in Bay County, added: "With the help of conservation programs, we have implemented environmentally friendly practices that will ensure cleaner water for the future of Saginaw Bay. Our filter strips prevent soil erosion and keep unwanted pesticides away from drainage ditches that would flow into the Saginaw River and eventually the Saginaw Bay."
The meeting, which welcomed the input of local residents, community leaders and other stakeholders, was hosted by the Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative. The Initiative is a collaboration between seven area counties, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and various regional and federal agencies focused on developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to promoting environmentally sound economic development and resource restoration in the Saginaw Bay coastal area.