$45 Million Investment by USDA for Improving Lake Champlain’s Water Quality

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Today an announcement was made by Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, stating that around $45 million would be offered for the improvement as well as protection of water and soil quality over the coming half decade in Lake Champlain Basin located in Vermont.

Vilsack said that the government is dedicated towards the enhancement and protection of this unique and beautiful natural resource. He considers the USDA investment an historic one and feels that it will assist in improvement of water quality as well as enable producers to work towards the establishment and expansion of effective conservation practices.

In the recent times, Lake Champlain is affected by blue-green algae blooms which turn toxic on a periodic basis. These algae blooms have been caused by degradation in the quality of the water as a result of phosphorous pollution. Water quality can be affected by phosphorous which can trigger excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants. This will in turn have serious environmental impact such as death of fishes.

The funds would be provided towards the conservation activities related to farming operations that would take place in the South Lake Watersheds, St. Albans Bay as well as Missisquoi Bay. During the past decade, USDA granted around $46 million through NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) for the benefit of the Vermont farmers, who were addressing the issues related to water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin. Hence this new pledge of five years becomes more or less double the historic investment made in the region.

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Moreover, to speed up the ground work for this year, an extra amount of $1 million has been provided by NRCS as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) funds. This is intended to assist producers in planting cover crops on soils that are vulnerable as well as take care of issues related to conservation with respect to livestock operations.

According to Vilsack, the dedicated team of conservation experts would focus on the basin’s future, working in collaboration with proactive landowners.

In order to address issues related to natural resources, EQIP enables producers to go ahead with identification and implementation of conservation practices. The program in Vermont helps to compensate for the costs of conservation practices which are vital for the maintenance of water quality, including fencing for exclusion of livestock from water bodies, stream crossings, riparian buffers and conservation tillage, amongst others.

Other efforts by NRCS incorporate edge of field monitoring for gauging the efficiency of vital conservation practices, along with a supportive conservation endeavor with major partners to render synchronized aid to Lake Champlain producers.

Many factors such as warm water owing to global warming, runoff from farms, rainfall, etc. can trigger algae blooms. No till and other conservation practices bring down the quantity of nutrients and sediment in run-off, a phenomenon also set off by the time span and quantity of precipitation.

USDA along with the US Environmental Protection Agency aims to help producers decrease runoff through cover crop planting, drainage control and construction of anaerobic digesters to check unprocessed effluent from entering lakes, rivers, streams and ditches.

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