Area farmers are among those in Ohio being encouraged to participate in a program designed to reduce phosphorus runoff in Lake Erie.
H2Ohio, an initiative launched by Gov. Mike DeWine, will allot $30 million between 12 counties in northwest Ohio to target safe and clean waterways in the state. The program will be implemented by a joint effort of the state’s Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Natural Resources.
Beginning Feb. 1, farmers in the region can apply to participate in the initiative through their local Soil and Water Conservation District offices. The initiative is funded through the state budget appropriated in 2019.
If approved, a farmer can implement one of seven practices to help reduce phosphorus runoff from their fields: soil testing, variable rate fertilization, subsurface nutrient application, manure incorporation, conservation crop rotation, cover crops, and drainage management.
“We’re hoping to reduce the amount of phosphorus runoff to prevent algal blooms in Lake Erie,” said Kim Bowles, Fulton SWCD district administrator.
Algal blooms can get into drinking water supplies and physically harm both humans and animals.
Some details of the initiative are still tentative. Informational meetings will be held for area farmers with the closest being in Veterans Hall at Owens Community College on Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. The meeting will explain the H2Ohio application and certification processes and provide answers about the program.
Bowles said farmers approved for the initiative through Ohio will receive a specified amount per acre in reimbursement to implement one of the seven practices. Participation is not mandatory.
She said a number of area farmers have already expressed interest in the initiative.
“It think it’s going to be a success,” Bowles said. “Our hope is to get new people that haven’t been doing conservation practices to do this to enable us to reduce the phosphorus.”
District 47 State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), who represents portions of Fulton County, said, “I am optimistic this will have a positive impact and be beneficial for farmers. I am especially appreciative that the Ohio Department of Agriculture is working in partnership with farmers and our local Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Those partnerships are important.”
DeWine spokesperson Daniel Tierney said although the program is in its early stages positive feedback from farmers across the state has already been received.
“It’s appreciated that we’re taking a collaborative approach to water issues, doing the correct things that help agriculture and our waterways,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.