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OFBF continues to focus on water issues
by Amy Beth Graves
Ohio Farm Bureau is continuing to concentrate on addressing issues brought up by the Toledo drinking water problem in early August.
The harmful algal bloom issue is complex, and many groups and institutions are working to understand all of the factors involved. Ohio Farm Bureau has been in constant contact with lawmakers, media and agriculture/commodity groups to not only explain agriculture’s commitment to conservation and water quality but to also correct misconceptions about current regulations.
Recently, two bills were introduced in the General Assembly aimed at further regulating farming practices in reaction to the Toledo drinking water ban. While we’re open to all suggestions, the proposed bills raise significant questions including: Will the proposed solutions actually improve water quality and will unintended consequences hurt farmers and the rural economy?
The quality and quantity of the state’s water resources have been on OFBF’s radar for a long time. About a year ago, work began on the Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) initiative, which had a steering committee meeting that just so happens to have been scheduled 1 ½ weeks after the Toledo water problem. The meeting was held at Grand Lake St. Marys, which has been challenged by harmful algal blooms for years.
HwO participants, who are developing a long-term management strategy to address water issues, heard experts describe how an elaborate system installed in 2008 has kept the lake’s water safe to drink, despite harmful algal blooms. They also learned about research on how nutrients leave farm fields and ways to prevent runoff. A tour of Grand Lake was part of a series of learning events that will be held statewide for the coalition to better understand Ohio’s water resources and the challenges to them.
Ohio’s agricultural organizations are committed to helping find a solution to Ohio’s complex water quality issue. Below are some of the other efforts we support:
- Funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a federally funded program that promotes coordination between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to farmers.
- Funding for Ohio State University’s edge-of-field research project, which will be used to identify and rank farming practices that are most effective in keeping nutrients on the field and out of waterways. WOSU interview about the research.
- Funding for USDA Rural Development and other programs that will support county septic system improvement work and small/rural community wastewater systems.
- Support for ongoing efforts to educate farmers and the public about the importance and value of 4R Nutrient Stewardship.
- Funding to research algal blooms throughout the state to better understand diversity of watersheds and identify causes and future solutions.
- Support for development of a standard for monitoring, analysis, reporting and removal of algal toxins by municipal water treatment plants.
Amy Beth Graves is a communications specialist for Ohio Farm Bureau.