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State House OK's expanded MAEAP funding

LANSING — During the week of May 18, the Michigan House of Representatives endorsed a measure aimed at expanding the funding mechanism for the trailblazing environmental protection program developed to help minimize the potential for pollution from farms. House members voted 61-48 to approve HB 4391, which would expand funding for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP).

Sponsored by Dist. 81 Rep. Dan Lauwers, the bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. Lauwers' measure provides for taxing all fertilizers, with the additional revenue aimed at stewardship efforts in sensitive watersheds, including Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie and Lake Macatawa (near Holland).

MAEAP is an innovative, voluntary program that has become a national model for farm-based environmental stewardship. It's currently funded solely through fees on pesticides and taxes on nitrogen-based fertilizer. Prior to its passage, 24 agricultural stakeholder organizations, including Michigan Farm Bureau, cosigned a letter to the state's 110 representatives to further emphasize the importance of the legislation.

"For years, the policy our members developed has called for applying fund-raising levies on all fertilizers," said Matt Smego, government relations manager at Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB)."Broadening MAEAP funding will allow the program to leverage federal farm bill dollars to further bolster the program.

"Farm Bureau members are committed to responsible environmental protection efforts, and we've been proud to be a part of MAEAP's development and steady growth over the past decade."

Lauwers' legislation also extends the sunset of fertilizer fees until 2021; they were originally set to expire at the end of this year. - See more at: