Five regional meetings such as this one at Lake Erie Shores & Islands were held to gather input for Healthy Water Ohio.

Farm Bureau helping farmers meet their water quality goals

Buckeye Farm News

By Amy Beth Graves

In September, OFBF’s board of trustees voted to commit significant resources to address agriculture’s role in improving Ohio’s water resources. A special emphasis was placed on the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). Four months later, a lot has happened to help farmers meet two of the plan’s more aggressive goals.

The first goal is to have all qualifying farmers in the WLEB obtain required fertilizer applicator certification by Earth Day 2015 (April 22), which is 29 months ahead of the state required deadline. Ohio State University Extension has set up dozens of fertilizer applicator certification classes, some in conjunction with pesticide recertification, with the potential to reach 5,000 farmers statewide. The first three classes were held in the Western Lake Erie Basin and had 777 participants, representing more than half a million acres of cropland. About 50 facilities have committed to participate in the Ohio AgriBusiness Association’s 4-R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, representing almost 2 million farm acres with about half in the WLEB.

The second goal is to help farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin create nutrient management plans, which detail responsible fertilizer use, by Earth Day 2016. OFBF is working with OSU Extension on getting grant money to hire four people to help WLEB farmers develop those nutrient management plans.

Delegates to OFBF’s annual meeting supported these goals by establishing policy that all farmers applying fertilizer or manure complete the state’s fertilizer applicator certification program as well as develop and follow nutrient management plans.

Other areas where OFBF is making progress:

•Demonstration farms: Ohio Farm Bureau is close to finalizing an agreement with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to establish a series of demonstration farms on the Blanchard River watershed, which has been identified as a significant source of phosphorus and sediment in the Great Lakes. The goal is to show farmers, as well as residents, the innovative measures farmers are using to keep nutrients on the fields and out of waterways. Ohio Farm Bureau has committed $250,000 with NRCS putting in $750,000.

Healthy Water Ohio: More than 150 stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture and others have provided input about the state’s water resources. Five regional input meetings were held, and a statewide survey was conducted to identify what water issues are of concern to Ohioans.

•Personnel: Ohio Farm Bureau has started interviewing for a full-time director of water quality and research, which is a new position. The new staff member will expand OFBF’s outreach and programming efforts.

•County water quality funding: OFBF has started putting together a program that will provide county Farm Bureaus a dollar-for-dollar match for local water projects.

Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.