The White House has honored Carrie Vollmer-Sanders, director of the Western Lake Erie Basin Project for The Nature Conservancy, as a “Champion of Change” for her efforts to promote a healthy Lake Erie by working with farmers, agribusinesses, researchers, government agencies, and conservation groups to improve nutrient management and drainage practices through the use of 4R Nutrient Stewardship (applying the Right source of fertilizer at the Right rate at the Right time, in the Right place).

With Vollmer-Sanders’ leadership, this broad group of stakeholders developed a voluntary, third-party certification program in which farmers’ fertilizer and crop advisers can be recognized for their efforts to improve water quality through the use of site specific, science-based best management practices.

“This certification program is good business for farmers as well as water quality—not just for the fish in Lake Erie but also for the people who rely on the lake and its tributaries for drinking water,” said Vollmer-Sanders. “Fertilizer run-off into waterways contributes to harmful algal blooms. This certification program will help make sure that fertilizer grows crops, not algae.”

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, managed by the Nutrient Stewardship Council, was created to be a consistent, recognized program highlighting agricultural retailers’ nutrient stewardship efforts. The program ensures that social, environmental and economic sustainability objectives are met through the adoption of 4R nutrient management. The three-year program will encourage information sharing and the incorporation of new research and technologies with the goal of improving water quality in Lake Erie.

The program was made possible through the support of The Nature Conservancy, the Joyce Foundation, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, the Mosaic Company Foundation, and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), along with fertilizer retailers like The Andersons and Morral Companies.

“Ensuring that 4R Nutrient Stewardship has the maximum positive impact will require the active engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders,” said TFI President Chris Jahn. “Carrie has been an instrumental force in bringing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program to fruition and we are most appreciative for her work and for TFI’s growing partnership with TNC.”

Vollmer-Sanders will be recognized today at the White House along with 13 others through the “Champions of Change” program. President Obama created the Champions of Change program as an opportunity to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

“The Certification Program is part of our ongoing work aimed at finding solutions that will allow society to grow enough food and have clean water to drink for the 9 billion people on the planet in 2050,” said Sean McMahon, The Nature Conservancy's North American agriculture program director. “Key stakeholders agree that water quality is a top priority for maintaining strong economies, communities, and biodiversity. By working together we can achieve lasting conservation benefits for both people and nature.”