State Rep. Julie Alexander, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture, and the Michigan House of Representatives today approved a plan to extend a major funding mechanism for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).
Alexander said Senate Bill 494 will ensure continuation of the popular, voluntary program that recognizes farmers for conservation efforts.
“Farmers diligently grow food for the people of Michigan and the world, and MAEAP has helped prepare them to raise livestock and grow crops with the best practices for conservation,” said Alexander, of Hanover. “This voluntary program — which is unique to Michigan — has received high praise from the agricultural community.”
MAEAP was created in 1998. The program allows farmers to be verified for environmentally friendly agricultural practices, especially practices to reduce erosion and runoff. The program offers verification in four different systems: farmstead; cropping; livestock; and forest, wetlands and habitat. A farm can obtain verification in multiple systems. According to the MAEAP website, 5,842 verifications have been approved to date.
MAEAP is primarily supported by the Freshwater Protection Fund, which collects annual water quality protection fees from agricultural businesses distributing or selling pesticides, fertilizers and soil conditioners, so the program is largely funded by farmers. The law providing for the fees is set to expire at the end of the year.
Alexander collaborated on the legislation with Sen. Kevin Daley, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and introduced SB 494. The bill would extend authorization for the pesticide and soil treatment fees until Dec. 31, 2025.
“Fees on soil and plant treatment products that fund MAEAP are about to expire, and this plan will keep the successful program up and running,” Alexander said. “The plan will equip MAEAP to continue supporting our farms and conserving our natural resources.”
The state Environmental Assurance Advisory Council advises state government on environmental issues related to agriculture, including MAEAP. Currently, the council is required to provide recommendations to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Legislature on incentives to increase MAEAP participation. SB 494 would also require the council to provide advice on possible modifications of the program to boost participation. The council would be required to make recommendations on incentives and modifications every two years or at the request of the DNR director.
SB 494 was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support and now goes to the governor for her consideration.
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