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USDA launching program to discourage over-fertilizing of farmers' fields

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack inspects peaches at the Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center, near Frankenmuth.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new program Monday aimed at reducing agricultural runoff responsible for large cyanobacterial blooms.

Fertilizer that runs off farm fields can fuel those blooms. Vilsack estimated 28% of U.S. cropland is over-fertilized.

Vilsack spoke at Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center, near Frankenmuth. He said the federal government will be allocating $40 million in nutrient management grants to highlight the economic benefits of better planning for farmers by helping them reduce costs.

Vilsack believes eventually the program will help reduce cyanobacterial blooms, including the annual bloom on Lake Erie.

“It’s going to take time,” said Vilsack. “We didn’t get into this situation overnight. We're not going to get out of it overnight. The goal here though is consistency. And consistent investment and significant investment.”

At a news conference Monday, Vilsack also touted the benefits of the passage of several pieces of legislation, including the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act, for rural Michigan.

The Agriculture Secretary was joined by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who’s also the chair of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Secretary Vilsack and the farmers and stakeholders we met with today to ensure the Great Lakes Bay region remains a world-class center of agricultural innovation and productivity into the future,” said Stabenow.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.