Lake Erie, July 28, 2015. (NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens)

Farmers get more help to protect water quality in Lake Erie

After an American agency predicted a bad summer for algal blooms in Lake Erie, the provincial and federal governments are boosting funding to help farmers improve farming practices.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the bloom could have a severity higher than seven this year. That is out of 10 and much more severe than last year.

Phosphorous runoff from farms is one of the contributing factors in the creation of toxic algal blooms, and the funding will help farmers take on projects to prevent flow into waterways connected to the lake.

Another 70 projects will get support, on top of 270 projects already approved this year.

Those projects include planting overwintering crops to improve soil health and prevent erosion, planting trees to provide a buffer between farmers’ fields and waterways, and modifying equipment.

“The environment is a top priority for our government, and we are committed to working with Ontario and its agricultural sector to protect water resources,” said federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Marie-Claude Bibeau.

Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman said under the Lake Erie Agriculture Demonstrating Sustainability initiative, more than 225 projects were undertaken last year.

“Our farmers have always been careful stewards of the land, and our government is pleased to support them in their actions to protect what matters most, such as water quality in the Lake Erie watershed,” he said.

The Canadian Agricultural Partnership has committed $3.3-million to support the projects this year. The funding is available to farmers in the Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair watersheds and will accept applications until the funding has all been allocated.