OSCEOLA COUNTY -- The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) was established in 1998 by agricultural, environmental, and conservation groups. MAEAP was created as a voluntary and confidential program to assist farmers with being top stewards of the land by reducing agricultural pollution. Hosted by Conservation Districts around the state, MAEAP's mission is to develop and implement a proactive environmental assurance program that targets all types of farms in Michigan. It guarantees that Michigan farmers participate in cost-effective pollution prevention practices and work to abide by state and federal environmental regulations. The program has continued to grow since 1998 because farmers appreciate the need for sustainable farming to protect the environment for the present and future. A farm can become MAEAP verified in one or more systems: Farmstead, Cropping, and Livestock. In recent years, an additional system, the Forest, Wetlands and Habitat (FWH), was created and aimed towards forest landowners that want to make good decisions about how to care for their land and wildlife. To become verified, farmers need to follow a three-step process, which includes attending an educational seminar or completing educational material online about the program and conservation practices, meet with the local MAEAP Technician to complete an on-farm risk assessment and implement an action plan created by the technician to address potential environmental risks on the farm. Once the environmental risks on the farm have been addressed, such as adding secondary containment for fertilizer and pesticides, the regional MAEAP Verifier will then visit the farm to verify that management practices are being implemented. Many farms are already following environmentally appropriate management practices. However, sometimes a farm might need assistance to help implement these practices. MAEAP is a great program to assist with that and to reward and recognize farms and forests that are proactive in reducing agricultural pollution. The program can provide technical assistance and has cost share available for those farms working towards verification. Farms that are pursuing MAEAP verification are eligible to apply. All MAEAP projects approved for cost share will receive a 50% reimbursement, up to a maximum of $500 per producer. Common cost share activities include secondary containment pads, soil samples, spill kits, plantings for erosion control, water samples, manure samples, abandoned well closures, livestock fencing, and more. To learn more about MAEAP, how to become verified, and what cost-share opportunities are available please call the Osceola-Lake Conservation District office at (231) 465-8012 or visit mecostacd.org.