MONTPELIER, Vt. – Officials from the agencies of Agriculture, Food and Markets and Natural Resources announced today joint funding of $700,000 over the next three years to help draw down a $14 million backlog in federal funding for on-farm projects that will improve water quality and accelerate efforts to address phosphorus pollution in Lake Champlain.Testifying before the Senate Economic Development Committee, agency officials said that will ensure numerous projects are immediately undertaken this field season – with dozens more ready to be implemented over the next several years.The spending plan, which will use state capital funds, has the support of Governor Jim Douglas, who said Vermont has an obligation to fund projects to clean Vermont waters.”My administration has united under the Center for Clean and Clear to improve Lake Champlain water quality in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible,” said Douglas. “We recognize that we must act now – and forcefully – with programs that will assist the agricultural community to reduce phosphorus runoff.”The Agency of Natural Resources has committed $325,000 over three years, beginning with $125,000 that can be used immediately. The Agency of Agriculture will add $75,000 now and $300,000 beginning in fiscal year 2009, split evenly for two years. The funding will go to pay for engineering services needed to design and manage the construction of some $20 million in programs waiting at the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.This partnership will put important practices on the ground as soon as this summer that will work to significantly reduce agricultural sources of phosphorus to Lake Champlain,” said ANR Secretary George Crombie.”Cleaning up Lake Champlain is one of my top priorities,” Crombie said. “Over the last three decades, we’ve done a good job limiting phosphorus from wastewater treatment plants to about 10 percent of the problem. Now, our focus will be on the northern end of the lake where we see the greatest challenges to the lake’s overall health and fishing and recreational opportunities.”Much of the Agency of Agriculture’s work will focus on farm best management practices. “These funds will help to assist farmers in implementing management practices that promote agricultural production and protect the environment,” said Roger Allbee, Secretary of Agriculture.”Vermont farmers have stepped up to protect our land and waterways,” said David Lane, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. “This funding will allow for the implementation of projects that will help farmers to continue best management practices to protect waterways.” Many of the farm projects will work in connection with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP was reauthorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (Farm Bill) to provide a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promote agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.