In February, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) aired a commercial on Toledo radio stations that placed blame for algal blooms solely on farmers. Their message did not go unchallenged. Below is Ohio Farm Bureau’s response to Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of NWF.
Dear Mr. O’Mara
We are writing on behalf of the 200,000 members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to express our disappointment with some recent National Wildlife Federation (NWF) activities and to propose a more collaborative relationship in the future that will yield more positive results for both our communities.
Your recent advertising campaign in Northwest Ohio, which dealt with the challenges to Lake Erie water quality, were, in our view, unnecessarily antagonistic and harmfully simplistic. Your message that “Lake Erie was contaminated by toxic algae caused by farm runoff” was a disservice to the agricultural community and to citizens who rely on the lake for drinking water, commerce and recreation.
NWF has a distinguished track record of protecting wildlife, preserving habitat and promoting conservation – goals that Ohio Farm Bureau applauds and shares. It is our belief that your organization and ours should work with, not against each other.
For Farm Bureau’s part, our contribution to improving Lake Erie and Ohio’s other water resources begins by accepting our share of responsibility. That’s why we have been very aggressive in helping farmers act in an environmentally responsible fashion.
Our new $1 million Water Quality Action Plan will help all qualifying farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin obtain required fertilizer certification by Earth Day 2015, bringing farmers into regulatory compliance a full 29 months ahead of the state required deadline. And we are helping farmers in the watershed create nutrient management plans, which detail responsible fertilizer use, by Earth Day 2016. This step exceeds state legal requirements. We have hired a second staff member to specialize in water quality and nutrient management issues and work with farmers to help them do more to protect water quality. Fifteen years ago, Ohio Farm Bureau set a national precedent by hiring a doctorate level expert to work with farmers on these issues. We also are partnering with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and various state agencies to establish a network of demonstration farms, which will assist in farmer training and show the public how viable farming and resource protection go hand in hand. The plan also includes numerous other initiatives including financial and educational support to county Farm Bureau activities centered on local water issues.
On the legislative front, Ohio Farm Bureau supported last year’s passage of Senate Bill 150, the first of its kind in the nation that requires certification for fertilizer applicators, and we are engaged in current efforts to pass additional state law that deals with manure and other fertilizer applications.
As proof of our willingness to work collaboratively, in 2014 Ohio Farm Bureau spurred the creation of the Healthy Water Ohio (HwO) coalition. This group is a diverse partnership of stakeholders from conservation, business and industry, universities, water suppliers, agriculture and others who are developing a 20- to 30-year management strategy to address water issues for Ohio. Some organizations that have been engaged include Environmental Defense Fund, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Ohio League of Conservation Voters, The Nature Conservancy and several local conservancy organizations. NWF’s participation would be welcome.
The challenges facing Lake Erie are numerous: farm nutrient runoff, municipal overflows, residential and commercial runoff, treatment system shortfalls, septic leakage, invasive species, wildlife and weather events. Addressing all of the challenges will be time consuming and expensive, especially so in the agricultural sector where we must find balance between food production and environmental protection. It is our hope that NWF and OFBF can cooperate in helping the public better understand a complex issue and find practical solutions. Together we can do things that benefit Ohio’s citizens, economy, wildlife and natural resources. We hope you will welcome the opportunity to begin a productive dialogue.
President, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation
Mike Shriberg, NWF Great Lakes Regional Center
Marc Smith, NWF Great Lakes Regional Center
Sen. Sherrod Brown
Sen. Rob Portman
Rep. Marcia Fudge
Rep. David Joyce
Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Rep. Robert Latta
Gov. John Kasich
Members of the Ohio General Assembly
Ohio Farm Bureau Board of Trustees
Regional OFBF county presidents
Ohio Farm Bureau staff