Agricultural Lands Conservation Advocacy

The Great Lakes Commission advocates for programs that enhance conservation on agricultural lands, with a focus on conservation activities that reduce polluted runoff to the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

2018 Legislative Request

Federal investments in agricultural conservation practices are critical to protecting water quality and enhancing habitat for wildlife. Harmful algal blooms are a persistent threat to public health, drinking water safety and local economies, particularly in vulnerable areas such as Western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay. For example, Lake Erie has experienced severe algal blooms in eight of the last ten years. Runoff of nutrients and soil erosion contribute to harmful algal blooms while also clogging our rivers and ports and diminishing agricultural productivity.

Conservation programs authorized in the Farm Bill help solve these problems by enabling agricultural producers to conserve soil resources, improve water quality, and do their part to restore the Great Lakes. The 2018 Farm Bill should maintain, strengthen and strategically target conservation programs that protect the Great Lakes and support a healthy farm economy.

The above legislative request is included as part of the Great Lakes Commission 2018 Legislative Priorities: An Agenda for Great Lakes Restoration and Economic Revitalization (Presented to the 115th Congress: March 2018)


Soil erosion and runoff of nutrients, fertilizers and other chemicals from agricultural lands can pollute rivers and streams and contribute to harmful algal blooms, such as those impacting Lake Erie. The 2014 Farm Bill created a new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to support locally-led conservation projects and prioritized the Great Lakes as a Critical Conservation Area with a focus on actions to prevent algal blooms.

The Great Lakes states, agricultural producers, county soil and water districts, conservation groups, and other partners are using the RCPP to target and enhance investments in conservation practices that reduce nutrient pollution entering our region’s most heavily-impacted areas, such as Western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and the Lower Fox River and Green Bay. The Lake Erie states and the Province of Ontario have committed to reduce phosphorus introduced to western and central Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025.

Continued effort is needed to prioritize conservation investments and other activities in watersheds with the greatest needs (e.g., those that contribute the largest phosphorus loads or that have significant agricultural operations not active in conservation programs) and to coordinate these efforts with other NRCS initiatives and related federal programs (e.g., the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative).

For More Information

Matt Doss
Policy Director
Great Lakes Commission
[email protected]

Get the latest Great Lakes Commission news and events in your inbox!

Sign up for our e-newsletter

Get the latest Great Lakes Commission news and events in your inbox!