In partnership with seven local producers in the watershed, USRWA has received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to kick start a farmer-led coalition in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. USRWA and it’s founding producers who helped write the grant application are one of 14 groups around the state that will benefit from Wisconsin’s first Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants issued.
Receiving this grant is a culmination of nearly two years worth of effort. “Two years ago we made it a priority to understand the issues facing both the watershed and the farmers when it came to ag runoff,” said Wade Moder, Executive Director of USRWA.
“As a conservation group, things really started coming together and making sense when we brought farmers into the conversation. We learned from each other quickly, and it became clear a farmer-led coalition would be a great asset for everyone.”
The Upper Sugar River Producer Coalition is targeting the Headwaters Sugar River and West Branch Sugar River watersheds, which are both impaired due to excess phosphorus loading. USRWA, who is partnering with the farmers on the coalition, has already established baseline water quality data to help prioritize the coalition’s efforts. The overarching goal of the group is to bring together like minded farmers, strengthen water quality improvement efforts, and leverage educational and financial resources in the future.
As a newly formed producer led group, the grant funding will be used to develop a mission statement, goals, and work plan for the watershed, in addition to recruiting more producers into the coalition. Farmer education will also be a primary focus. In its first year, the group will host a field day and a “Lunch and Learn” educational workshop in partnership with Dane County UW-Extension’s Crop and Soils Educator, Heidi Johnson for all of the producers in the Sugar River Watershed. To further engage producers in the watershed, the group will also develop an incentive program to fund the installation of various conservation practices.