Whole Farms for Clean Water Flyer

Grow a healthy business while improving water quality

Get paid to reduce phosphorus loss from your farm by using conservation strategies.

We can guarantee a minimum payment of $20 per acre for qualifying farms. The bigger your phosphorus loss reduction, the more you get paid! This offer applies to the first 1,000 acres that commit to carrying out our recommended conservation practices.

WE can identify measurable, flexible and cost-effective conservation techniques for your farm and fields. YOU choose which practices to implement.

Our project team, including farm consultants and agronomists work with your farm and field-specific information. We combine your farm data with watershed-level nutrient and economic modeling. The model predicts measurable results for a variety of conservation practices.

We have found the following strategies to be the most effective across the watershed in reducing phosphorus losses, resulting in higher payments:

● Conversion to grassland (pasture and conservation)
● Buffer/filter strips
● Cover crops
● Reduced application rates of fertilizer
● Subsurface placement of phosphorus fertilizer

Get an optional Whole Farm Plan. The plan will outline a strategy specific to your farm to address questions or challenges in implementing the practices our model recommends.

Together we will explore scenarios and conservation options that maximize your payment, meet your business goals and protect water quality. Working with Whole Farms for Clean Water is more than reducing phosphorus runoff, it is an investment in the success of your farm. Funding is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Don’t wait to apply!

Frequently Asked Questions

What size farms can enroll in the program?

25 acres is the participation minimum. There is no maximum acreage limit. If you would like to reduce phosphorus runoff on a farm below the threshold and would like to be considered for an exception, please contact our team.

What watersheds are eligible?

Areas within the Huron River watershed in Washtenaw and Livingston counties including Mill Creek, Portage Creek, Honey Creek, Fleming Creek and Boyden Creek are priorities for practice implementation.

Check the map to see if your farm is in the GREEN project area.

 

Learn more about the creeksheds of the Huron River watershed at the HRWC Info Stream.

What if I already use conservation practices?

Existing practices are not eligible for payments through this program, but we would like to work with you to find additional strategies for reducing runoff if applicable! If you are phasing practices into your management, practice expansion is eligible for payments.

Are organic farms eligible to participate?

Any farm that meets the size and location criteria that can reduce phosphorus runoff is eligible, including organic farms.

Am I eligible if I participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program?

Yes. Whole Farms is an independent program that is providing extra incentive payments for projects that specifically reduce phosphorus losses. Farmers that participate in other conservation programs are still eligible to participate in Whole Farms. Your payments will depend on differences between current and future (planned) practices.

Will this conflict with my other conservation/federal programs?

No. Whole Farms is an independent program that is providing extra incentive payments for projects that specifically reduce phosphorus losses. Farmers that participate in other conservation programs are still eligible to additionally participate in Whole Farms. Your payments will depend on differences between current and future (planned) practices.

If I don’t own the land, can I enroll in the program?

Yes, rented land is eligible for participation as long as you have the right to control management practice decisions. Landowners and tenants may need to collaborate to install some practices, and we prefer to encourage transparency and communication between landowner and tenant.

Can I sign my tenant up for the program?

Please contact our team to discuss this situation. Landowners and tenants may need to collaborate to install some practices, and we prefer to encourage transparency and communication between landowner and tenant.

To sign up for the Whole Farms for Clean Water program, please schedule a pre-application phone call with our farm consultant. We can discuss the program with you and determine together if it is a good fit for your farm.

  • Let our farm consultant know generally when to contact you by phone. Examples: weekdays after 6pm, or M, W, F between 2 and 7pm, or Saturdays before Noon.
  • Anything you would like our farm consultant to know about your farm, or any questions you have.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

After the phone call, if you wish to proceed, we’ll ask you to submit an application.

The application will require your contact information, filling out a survey about your fields, providing maps or coordinates for your fields, a statement about how your information will be used and shared, and the phosphorus reduction strategies that you are interested in.

We recommend that you download the PDF application form to your computer and save it frequently while completing it. You can always request to have a paper application mailed to you.

Application
Once you have completed the application, email it to Ric Lawson, Project Manager, at rlawson@hrwc.org.

For printed hard copy applications, address and mail to:

Whole Farms for Clean Water Project
c/o Huron River Watershed Council
1100 N Main St, Suite 210
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Our team will contact you within three business days of receiving your application to confirm your eligibility, review the practices you are interested in, and to give you a timeline for payment estimates.

Do I need to meet with someone to sign up or can it be done online?

Program enrollment and participation can be done without meeting project staff in person. Our staff can provide support via phone, email or video calls to participants. In-person meetings are also an option.

What information do you need?

To participate in the program, we need a completed application and field surveys for each additional field or management unit you plan to enroll. You also will need to supply field maps or location data of the fields in question. You may need soil test results, application records, and other field management data to complete the application, but you do not need to provide us with these documents.

Why do you need all of the information on the application?

All of the data on the application is needed to accurately run the program model. The model allows the team to customize and optimize your payments based on the practices that are most effective on your farm to reduce phosphorus loss.

What if I don’t know the answer to questions on the farmer survey?

You can skip questions on the survey if you do not know the answer. We will attempt to calculate reductions without the missing information, but it may result in less accurate payment calculations. The more information you can provide, the better the team will be able to calculate your potential payments. Contact our team if you have questions about the application.

Can multiple farms be signed up for the program?

Yes! Fill out separate applications to confirm eligibility on each site, and to determine the best practices for each farm.

If I sign up for the program but don’t “install” practice is there a penalty?

No, there is no penalty. You just won’t receive payments.

What practices are you paying for?

We have found the following strategies to be most effective across the watershed in reducing phosphorus losses, resulting in higher payments:

● Conversion to grassland (pasture and conservation)
● Buffer/filter strips
● Cover crops
● Reduce application rates
● Subsurface placement of phosphorus fertilizer

Additional phosphorus reduction strategies are considered on a case-by-case basis.

When do I get paid?

Payments will be sent following installation and verification of practices (see below).

How much is the program paying?

Payments will vary from farm to farm based on the degree to which the recommended practices reduce phosphorus runoff on each site. More effective changes will lead to larger payments. Estimates/ranges for our preferred practices found below. For the first 1000 acres enrolled in the program, we will guarantee a minimum rate of $20/acre for implementation of the most effective practices, as determined by the project model.

How are practices verified?

Verification will vary by practice. For structural practices, a site visit and/or date-stamped photo verification of the practice will be required. For changes in nutrient management, application records must be submitted to document changes. We will work with you to determine the best verification strategy for the practices you choose to implement.

Who will be verifying practices?

Project staff will verify practices. If a site visit is necessary for verification, you will be informed in advance about which project member will be conducting a site visit, as well as the date and time.

What are the standards for practices?

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practice sheets and available specifications will be used as guidelines, but practices may diverge from these guidelines if necessary and will not be verified by NRCS staff or otherwise associated with NRCS programs. Specifications will be documented in contracts in advance of implementation to ensure farmers know what they are committing to do.

Is there cost share or technical assistance available for the practices?

There may be cost share or technical assistance from project partners available for some practices on some sites. Project staff will help you find technical assistance for practices.

What happens after the payments are done?

Farmers are no longer committed to the practices following the end of contracts. The project team is working to secure more funding to support farmers implementing conservation in the watershed. The technical team is also dedicated to finding ways to incorporate these practices into your operation (whole farm plans!) that provide long-term benefits.

How long do I need to continue the practices?

A contract will be established between the farmer and Whole Farms Program (HRWC) that establishes the payment timeframe and practice commitment. Commitments will be at least one growing season, but may be established for a longer period with continued payments seasonally. Contracts will be written until all program funding is exhausted.

If I sign up for the program but don’t “install” practice is there a penalty?

No, there is no penalty. You just won’t receive payments.

How long will funding last for the program?

The length of funding availability depends on interest and participation. Once incentive funding runs out, the program may close to new applications until additional program funding can be secured. The program is currently funded for operation through June 2022.

Who is funding this program?

The Environmental Protection Agency, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, is providing financial support in the amount of $649,353 to the Huron River Watershed Council for the Whole Farms for Clean Water program.

Project partners include Environmental Consulting and Technology, Huron River Regional Conservation Partnership, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Ohio State University and University of Michigan, Solutions in the Land, Washtenaw County Conservation District and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner.

What about other sources of phosphorus pollution (golf courses, urban point sources, municipal wastewater, etc.)?

The Huron River Watershed Council and its partners have demonstrated success in reducing phosphorus and sediment loading from urban sources in the watershed. The phosphorus coming from urban stormwater sources (including stormwater and wastewater) has been reduced by an estimated 40% over the last two decades. Urban reductions have brought overall phosphorus and sediment loads close to water quality goals. This project aims to address agricultural sources of phosphorus and sediment to achieve water quality targets.

Visit “What We Do” on HRWC’s website to learn more about HRWC’s programs and impact in the watershed.

Why is this program focused on agricultural phosphorus runoff?

In order to meet water quality goals, many sources of phosphorus in the Huron River watershed need to be reduced. HRWC’s water monitoring data indicate that total phosphorus concentrations from Mill Creek, a predominantly agricultural watershed, have increased 17% since 2003. Agricultural drainages now contribute 48% of the total phosphorus load to Ford and Belleville Lakes in the Huron River watershed, and contribute to phosphorus loading in Lake Erie.

As mentioned above, HRWC and their partners have worked to reduce urban sources of phosphorus by 40%, These efforts have not addressed agricultural sources of phosphorus. By addressing agricultural contributions of phosphorus and sediment, this project could reduce overall phosphorus loading from agricultural land by 10.5 tons per year to achieve phosphorus loading goals for the impaired lakes and significantly reduce the Huron River Watershed’s contribution to Lake Erie.

HRWC’s goal with the Whole Farms for Clean Water initiative is to work with farmers to achieve these reductions in phosphorus and sediment runoff and to fairly compensate farmers for the work of protecting the watershed.

How is Whole Farms for Clean Water different from other conservation programs?

Instead of paying all producers the same amount to implement a practice that may or may not be effective, the Whole Farms Program is paying farmers larger amounts to implement the most effective changes for their farm — putting money directly in the pockets of those who make the largest positive impact in the watershed.

Who is SITL?

Solutions in the Land (SITL) is a team that offers comprehensive farm planning, consulting and workshops. We believe that agriculture can be profitable, environmentally compatible and socially acceptable. We work across the Midwest with non profit organizations, local government, private landowners and other stakeholders in agriculture. Our expertise includes site specific farm planning, regenerative land stewardship strategies, market driven crop systems, regional food systems and watershed scale strategic planning.

SITL is assisting with recruitment, enrollment and guiding farmers through the participation process.

Whole Farms for Clean Water project staff: 

Ron Doetch, Managing Partner, Agronomist

Patrick Judd, Associate, Green Infrastructure Consultant

Who is HRWC?

The Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) coordinates programs and volunteer efforts aimed at protecting and restoring the Huron. Since 1965, HRWC has been providing education, technical assistance, and science programs for residents and watershed communities. Our work is supported through the membership of individuals, local businesses, and more than 40 communities across Southeast Michigan.

Whole Farms for Clean Water project staff:

Ric Lawson, Watershed Planner
Pam Labadie, Marketing Director
Andrea Paine, Watershed Planning Associate

What are Whole Farm Plans?

Whole farm plans are unique, site-specific implementation plans that describe how to incorporate the phosphorus loss reduction strategies our model recommends into your farming operation. All participants in the Whole Farms for Clean Water (WFCW) program are eligible for a Whole Farm Plan, prepared by the technical team!

What is the benefit to having a Whole Farm Plan?

The plan will outline a strategy specific to your farm to address questions or challenges in implementing the practices our model recommends.

What information is needed for a Whole Farm Plan?

The first step is to fill out the Whole Farms for Clean Water (WFCW) application and provide the suggested supporting documents (maps and records). Then the technical team will set up an interview and site visit to discuss how phosphorus loss reduction strategies fit into your farm. The technical team will then prepare a written plan for your farm based on this assessment and your input.

How is this different from a Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Nutrient Management Plan, Conservation Plan, etc.?

The implementation plan takes a whole farm approach to achieve phosphorus reduction goals specific to the WFCW initiative. Existing nutrient management or conservation plans can be incorporated into the Whole Farms Plan, and vice versa.

Is my information shared outside of the program?

Information about your specific farm is not shared outside the program. Some general program information will be shared with funders (township, and number of practices installed), but no identifying information will be shared with the funders.

What is done with my farm information?

Your farm information is run through the model to estimate current runoff and the reduction of phosphorus runoff following the implementation of new practices. The only information shared with funders/outside of the programs is township locations and number of practices across the watershed. No identifying info will be shared.

Privacy Statement:

The only information specific to your farm that will be released will be the type of best management practices implemented and the subwatershed (broad drainage area) in which your farm is located, which the project funder (U.S. EPA) requires. The project will only make other results available in a generalized, anonymous fashion, including the nutrient runoff reductions and cost-effectiveness of the combined management changes in the program. All other information, such as individual soil test results, fertilizer application rates, field-specific management techniques, and field-specific nutrient or sediment runoff estimates, will be held as confidential within the project team for purposes of computing nutrient loss reduction benefits, and will not be released to any persons or entities other than to the EPA without the prior written permission of the farmer. EPA’s use of information is limited to documenting environmental progress and/or fulfilling financial (fiduciary) responsibilities.

Questions?

Contact Whole Farms for Clean Water project manager, Ric Lawson via email or call (734) 769-5123 x 609.

Project Support

The Environmental Protection Agency is providing
financial support in the amount of $649,353 to the
Huron River Watershed Council for the Whole Farms
for Clean Water project.

Project Partners

Environmental Consulting and Technology

Huron River Regional Conservation Partnership

Natural Resource Conservation Service

Ohio State University and University of Michigan

Solutions in the Land

Washtenaw County Conservation District

Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner