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MDARD wants more than status quo for MAEAP

The Director of the Michigan Agriculture Department says he wholeheartedly supports the state’s voluntary agriculture stewardship program, but after 20 years, it’s time for a historic look to reinvigorate it.

“MAEAP is a program that everyone in the state of Michigan should be proud of, it’s recognized nationally, so we want to just make it stronger.”

Gary McDowell tells Brownfield the department is opposing parts of state Senator Kevin Daley’s recently introduced bill, which would renew fees to continue the program, but not the program itself.

He says there needs to be more participation including in highly sensitive areas like the Western Lake Erie Basin.

“We have to get the verification numbers up to make it as efficient as we want, to see the results that we need,” he says.

The department also wants more to be done in terms of water quality monitoring to better identify issues in watersheds and create better verifiable outcomes.

“There are some problematic fields that are causing much more problems with the load then a field just a few miles down the road—so we need to be able to identify those fields and put our efforts in there,” he explains.

The department doesn’t support language which would remove farmers’ liability from surface water contamination.

“We’re going to have to take a real, real hard look at that because we see that as a step going backwards,” he says.

McDowell says Daley’s provisions to create more funding for MAEAP are positive, and while not present during the Senate Ag Committee’s hearing on the measure, he says discussions are ongoing.

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