Thursday, June 9, 2022

MDARD Announces Agreement with USDA to Implement Key Conservation Program


MDARD Announces Agreement with USDA to Implement Key Conservation Program

Agreement brings $40 million in federal funds protecting Michigan’s waterways

LANSING - Today, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced a pivotal conservation agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency (FSA), which reinstates Michigan’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).

CREP is a partnership between the state of Michigan, the USDA Farm Services Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service, conservation districts, and other partners to implement voluntary conservation practices in the Western Lake Erie Basin, Lake Macatawa, and Saginaw Bay watersheds. It will further protect the state’s environmental and natural resources.

“Michigan’s farmers power our economy and are effective stewards of our natural resources,” saidGovernor Gretchen Whitmer. “By reinstating CREP, we can continue improving Michigan’s water quality and reducing phosphorus in the Western Lake Erie Basin. I am grateful to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and our federal partners for coming to an agreement and bringing back this crucial program. Let’s keep working together to protect our Great Lakes and ensure Michigan’s farmers can succeed.”

“Our Michigan farmers play a key role in tackling the climate crisis,” said Senator Stabenow. “The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program gives them the tools they need to continue to lead on climate and improve water quality across our state. I applaud USDA and MDARD’s decision to continue this critical program.”

“CREP is one of our most flexible tools when it comes to voluntary, locally-led, partner-driven conservation efforts, and we’re so glad that we’re able to put it to work again in Michigan,” said Robert Bonnie, USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “This initiative previously had a positive impact in Michigan, and we look forward to broadening the reach of the program to new agricultural producers and landscapes. We are grateful to have support from Michigan leaders to make this program possible.”

“Michigan is excited to bring CREP back to our state to help farmers protect our natural resources. Thanks to the support of the Governor and our legislative partners, we’re going to be able to leverage $5 million for a $40 million federal investment,” said Gary McDowell, Director of MDARD.  “After six years without CREP, this is a huge win for water quality in Michigan and will help the state reach our 40 percent phosphorus reduction entering the Western Lake Erie Basin from farmland.”

Under CREP, landowners agree to install and maintain at least one, if not several, of six possible conservation practices (filter strips, riparian buffer, sediment control structure, field windbreak, wetland restoration, and grass, forb, and legume buffers) for up to 15 years. In return, USDA-FSA will reimburse up to half of the costs to install those practices plus additional financial incentives. MDARD will then reimburse the remaining half of the practice installation costs plus offer a sign-up incentive and a maintenance payment. Sign-up for CREP is ongoing until funds are depleted. 

“MDARD continues to be deeply committed to working with our farming community to reduce nutrient run-off into Michigan’s waterways,” said McDowell. “It will take us working together with USDA-FSA, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, our local conservation districts and our farmers to successfully implement CREP in the state.” 

MDARD is also partnering with Michigan State University Extension to help with landowner outreach and training conservation district technicians who, along with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will also assist in conservation practice implementation.

“We are excited to work with MDARD and offer this great watershed conservation incentive for Michigan farmers,” said Tim Boring, USDA Farm Service Agency State Director in Michigan. “Working together, we can lead the way through climate-smart solutions that will maintain critical environmental benefits through voluntary conservation efforts, increase climate resilience, sequester more carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and protect the Great Lakes.”  

“The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Michigan is pleased to be part of this state-federal partnership to protect our state’s natural resources. NRCS staff will work with CREP participants to help them get the most conservation benefits from the program,” said NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee.

Landowners interested in applying for CREP should contact their local conservation district or theUSDA’s Service Center

For more information about CREP, visit To read the signed agreement, click on the link

Melissa Weaver named new Pheasants Forever Regional Representative for Michigan

 MI Chapter Leaders,


Hello all! I have recently been brought on as the new Pheasants Forever Regional Representative for the state of Michigan. I feel honored to be considered worthy to support the Michigan chapters in delivering mission for Pheasants Forever. 


I wanted to send out a message to you all to introduce myself. Many of you may have seen this article on the PF Home website, and learned a little bit about me there. I am excited to meet you all in person sometime soon but until then, here is my story:


I spent the first half of my childhood in Plymouth, MI on 5 wooded acres with my parents and 8 siblings. With 9 kids, the house could get chaotic, so my parents often encouraged us to spend time playing outside. My 5 sisters, 3 brothers, and myself all became best friends in these woods, and we have only grown closer since. This property was where my oldest brother raised birds: pheasants, ducks, turkeys, and chickens. He was the self-proclaimed rancher but told 6-year-old Mel that she could oversee growing the gardens. I took this task very seriously. I fell in love with the outdoors at a very young age, always in awe of creation. I loved planting seeds and I remain amazed at the miracle of life each time a seed sends up a sprout. When I was 12, my family moved to a rural town in northern Indiana, just 2 miles south of the Michigan border. I was not thrilled about the move at the time, but soon came to find an appreciation for the slow pace of life in rural Indiana, which would eventually grant me more time in the great outdoors. I disapproved as my classmates cheered for the Hoosiers (Go Blue!) and after school, would often retreat to a small fishing boat or an ice shanty on Eagle Lake (Edwardsburg, MI) with my siblings. But Indiana grew on me: I taught my nieces how to grow their own gardens there, helped my nephews rescue many animals, and watched as Amish friends trained their ponies to pull wagons. I began to call Indiana my home, but was thrilled when my Michigan roots were unburied by summer vacations to northern Michigan. Eventually, my family would acquire some old family acreage on Torch Lake in Central Lake, MI. As I began high school, I loved learning, but was most fascinated by my science courses. I studied biology at a small liberal arts school in Michigan called Hillsdale College, where I was the director of a volunteer program, a member of the women’s golf club, a leader in my sorority, manager of the campus greenhouse, and member of the biology honorary. During summers, between working summer jobs, I would head to Torch Lake to roam the trails, identify plants, help my dad chop wood, and reconnect with my love of fishing. 


During my senior year of college, I began hard charging my post-grad career search. I looked for organizations that would allow me to contribute to something greater than myself; to do work I was passionate about and get to be with people through it all. At the forefront of conservation efforts, I found Pheasants Forever. I was ecstatic to get an interview with Pheasants Forever, and quickly learned how relationship-oriented the organization was. The opportunity to work at Pheasants Forever came with the knowledge that this organization would allow my two utmost passions to marry: biology and people. Now, I am thrilled to be learning from some of the most inspirational people I have ever met. Colleagues who are intelligent and motivated but take the time to shoot me an email to welcome me to the Bird Club. I get to do my part to ensure that my great grandkids can grow their own gardens and hunt their own meat, all while enjoying the same beautiful world that I got to experience. And while doing that, I get to wake up early every day because I am excited to connect with the people who value the same things that I do. This past week, that has been my coworkers and superiors, but now that turns to you! I can't tell you enough how excited I am to begin to meet you all -- the people who make it happen. You all are truly there on the front lines, giving of your own time to deliver mission. And I can't wait to be your support.


While I am still learning how to be that support, I want to let you all know that I am eager to help in any way that I can. Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, or to solicit my help with anything at all. I am available as a resource for you, both through email and by phone call. I would love if you could please include me in your individual chapter emails and share with me dates of your upcoming events, so that I might attend your meetings and get to know you all. 



Melissa Weaver |  Michigan Regional Representative
Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever

St. Clair Co. PF Chapter supports Yale High School Trap Team

 The chapter helped support the Yale High Schoo Trap Team this past spring.  This is the first time Yale High School has had a shooting team and our chapter was happy to help them out.

The team is coached by Harold Darga.  The group of young shooters (3 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 1 junior, and 2 seniors) have been shooting since March.  They will be participating in the state shoot on June 18th. One young shooter has already been invited to participate in the national shoot from July 6-10.  Good luck to these young individuals at these upcoming events.