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Grant Feature #3: Building an ag retailer network for success in the Yahara

Ag retailer network

Can working with ag retailers help our lakes?

We’re excited to partner with the Partnership for Ag Resource Management, known as PARM, for one of this year’s Clean Lakes Alliance Community Grants.

PARM is a project of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Institute of North America, a non-profit devoted to improving health and the environment. Through a Clean Lakes Alliance grant awarded for 2018, PARM is working with local agriculture retailers to increase sales of products and services to reduce phosphorus in the Yahara Watershed. Clean Lakes Alliance has contributed $8,000, which will leverage a $53,000 total project budget.

PARM first applied their phosphorus reduction strategy to the Sandusky River Watershed, located south of Lake Erie in Ohio, with great success. The group’s work in the Sandusky River Watershed and the entire Great Lakes region led to increases in sales of targeted products and services, greatly affecting phosphorus-loss reduction. In one year’s time, from 2015 to 2016, an estimated 4.5 million pounds of phosphorus were kept out of the Great Lakes Basin.

Through this grant, PARM will apply the same plan to the Yahara River Watershed in southern Wisconsin. By working with 28 agricultural retailers in Columbia, Dane, and Rock counties, the project will engage with the trusted advisors that influence nutrient application on hundreds of thousands of farm acres. The grant will identify products and services local agricultural retailers can offer to reduce phosphorus loading, including improved soil sampling, variable-rate phosphorus application, selection of cover crops, and strategies to reduce fertilizer application. PARM will provide targeted educational and marketing materials and support to participating retailers, along with regional press coverage and survey reports.

The project aims to encourage use of technology that will increase retailers’ profits and improve farmers’ yields, while reducing nutrient runoff to the lakes – a win for everyone involved. PARM expects to reach retailers servicing 20% of the Yahara Watershed’s 136,000 crop acres in the project’s first year, for an estimated 2,992-pound phosphorus reduction.

Public and private groups, including Dane County, Yahara WINs, the City of Madison, Yahara Pride Farms, and Clean Lakes Alliance have come together to cut phosphorus runoff to our lakes in half as part of the Yahara CLEAN Strategic Action Plan. In 2017, community partners worked together to divert nearly 14,000 pounds of phosphorus from the lakes, which would have fed almost 7,000,000 pounds of algae. This reduction marks almost 30% of the way toward our phosphorus-reduction target, and the PARM grant will help build new partnerships within the agricultural community to close that gap.

Clean Lakes Alliance is excited to invest in successful ag retailers, healthy farms, and improved water quality in our lakes. Thank you to the Partnership for Agricultural Resource Management and the IPM Institute of North America for bringing this important work to the Yahara Watershed!

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