Great Lakes Commission awarded funding to assess GLRI impact on influencing farmers to improve Great Lakes water quality

Aug 31, 2017 | News and Announcements

Ann Arbor, Mich. –  The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) was recently awarded $750,000 to lead a project that will determine whether Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) investments have influenced how farmers are conducting their agricultural operations. Agricultural producers in the Great Lakes basin have received over $100 million for on-the-ground agricultural conservation practices through the GLRI since 2010.

Sediment and nutrients from agricultural fields contribute to water quality degradation in rural areas, serving as a major contributor to the formation of harmful algal blooms and dead zones in the Great Lakes. Agricultural producers receive funding through the GLRI and other state and federal programs to promote adoption of conservation practices by making them more affordable. Currently, efforts are looking at whether conservation programs are improving water quality, but there has been no effort to date to look at whether farmers are responding to these incentives and changing their practices as a result.

“A comprehensive, socio-economic approach to evaluating GLRI investments is smart accounting,” said Jon W. Allan, chair of the Great Lakes Commission and director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. “This project will help GLRI decision-makers, including states and the broader Great Lakes community, understand the current and potential future impact of GLRI spending on agricultural conservation incentives so that we better protect the water more than 48 million people rely on for drinking, tourism, business, and more.”

The two-year project, called Researching Effectiveness of Agricultural Programs, or REAP, will focus geographically on the Lower Fox River in Wisconsin; Saginaw River in Michigan; Maumee River in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan; and Genesee River in New York— all of which were identified by the GLRI as “priority watersheds.” The GLC will manage an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners from Michigan State University and The Ohio State University for the project, with input from a multi-sector Advisory Council with broad geographic representation.

“REAP will not only look at the practices on individual farms, but also at the institutions and political structures that drive farmer behavior,” said Victoria Pebbles, GLC Program Director. “We hope to allow decision-makers to target future GLRI investments to better ensure funding is improving Great Lakes water quality for generations to come.”

The GLC has a long history of working with local, state, and federal partners to reduce sediment and phosphorus entering the Great Lakes through innovative and collaborative programs and leads a portfolio of projects that seek to improve water quality in urban and rural settings, and across watersheds. For more information, visit

The Great Lakes Commission, led by chairman Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at


For media inquiries, please contact Beth Wanamaker, [email protected].

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