A Statement from Ohio Farm Bureau and Ohio’s Agriculture Community

The way that citizens of Toledo and the rest of the state have rallied in response to the water crisis is a lesson in the power of cooperation and community.

As members of our communities, farmers believe in acting responsibly and want all Ohioans to know that we are concerned about Ohio’s water quality challenges and are committed to finding solutions.

The harmful algal bloom issue is complex, and many groups and institutions are working to understand all of the factors involved. Ohio’s agriculture community has been focusing on finding ways to keep nutrients in place on farms by preventing runoff. For several years Ohio’s agriculture community has been meeting and working together on various projects that address water quality challenges. For example, Ohio farmers have invested more than $1 million of their own money for on-farm research to seek solutions to runoff problems. This work, conducted by Ohio State University in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a three-year project on northern Ohio farms. This research is capturing and analyzing water at the edge of fields, looking for where nutrients are escaping and possible preventative measures.

Agriculture has been and will continue to work with state and federal government officials on this issue. The agriculture community has cooperated with every effort it has been asked to participate in and will continue to do so. In addition, Ohio’s agriculture community has taken these steps:

– Supporting the passage of Senate Bill 150, which will require most farmers in Ohio to be certified to apply fertilizer. The law has “teeth” because it will go after bad actors who recklessly apply fertilizer.

– Launching the Healthy Water Ohio initiative, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture and others to develop a 20- to 30-year comprehensive sustainable water resources management plan.

– Promoting statewide the 4-R Nutrient Stewardship program (using the right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and at the right place) and other conservation practices such as filter strips, no till or reduced tillage. A third-party certification program has been developed for commercial nutrient applicators that will verify adoption of nutrient stewardship practices.

– Supporting a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant led to a reduction of more than 180,000 pounds of phosphorus fertilizer across 8,653 acres in the region.

– Successfully petitioned to have state funding retained for Heidelberg University’s National Center of Water Quality Research and Ohio State University’s Sea Grant, which are studying the Great Lakes and water quality issues.

– Committing to provide resources and farmer participation for the Ohio/Indiana/Michigan application for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This new multimillion dollar federal government grant aims to reduce the harmful algal bloom in the Lake Erie Watershed.

– Encouraging farmers to use soil tests, which help identify the appropriate amount of fertilizer needed for their farms. One survey showed 82 percent compliance with Ohio State University-approved testing practices.

– Holding nutrient and water quality training sessions with 4,421 farmers attending 163 meetings held by Ohio State University Extension.

– Across Ohio, hundreds of thousands of acres have been voluntarily enrolled in conservation programs and are managed using conservation practices.

Looking forward, we know that the citizens of Ohio want to be assured that Ohio agriculture is prepared to do even more in the future to get this problem solved. We also know we need an “all hands on deck” approach because there are so many factors contributing to this statewide problem. That’s why Healthy Water Ohio was launched. Throughout history, agriculture has stepped up to environmental challenges and what we are faced with now will be another successful example of problem solving through teamwork and collaboration.

Callie Wells 

Callie Wells is the director of digital communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.

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