Sustainable Agriculture

Farming is an integral part of Michigan’s economy and can play a vital role in keeping our people, land and water healthy.

When rain or snowmelt mix with fertilizer and pesticides on farms, polluted water runoff occurs. Agricultural runoff is rich in nutrients that fuel algae blooms in waterways, harming our drinking water, closing beaches and endangering the flora and fauna.

MEC’s goal is to position Michigan as a leader in sustainable agriculture, and we believe that reducing agricultural runoff is a key component in that effort. We are helping farmers and state and local governments manage their runoff in ways that are both environmentally and economically good.

Nutrient Pollution

Commercial farms’ use of fertilizer is responsible for a majority of the nutrients that feed Lake Erie’s toxic algae blooms. Fertilizer is rich in phosphorus, a key ingredient in plant growth, but when too much phosphorus enters a waterbody, nutrient loading occurs and can trigger an explosive growth in algae. When the algae dies, it absorbs oxygen in the water, creating dead zones and the eventual die-off of aquatic plants and animals.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations, more commonly known as factory farms, cram livestock into crowded spaces – an unnatural and unhealthy condition that causes disease and concentrates manure in a small area. The manure is spread on fields as fertilizer where it can runoff into streams, rivers and other water bodies where it fuels toxic algae blooms. CAFOs also produce as much waste as a medium-sized city with virtually no rules and standards. The consequence? Horrifying sewage overflows that regularly foul drainage ditches, streams and ponds, making the water toxic for aquatic life and human contact.

We're intervening in the state's administrative courts to ensure CAFOs are safely producing, storing and using the manure they produce.

Supporting farmers

The environmentally sound decisions we make often yield economic benefits, whether in the form of savings, more money or, in the case of farmers, stronger crop yields.

But implementing methods like smart water use, crop rotations and composting takes knowhow and financial planning. MEC program director Tom Zimnicki is working to provide farmers that want to do good the network and resources they need through his appointment to the board of Michigan Agriculture Advancement

The nonprofit educates and advocates for equitable policy that helps farmers keep their soil and crops healthy and that places value in local, rural economies. It also seeks to create a network for farmers to share tips and best practices.

How We Work