Toledo food and water quality event identifies solutions and challenges

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (OFBF) – Collaboration and continual improvement are the keys to balancing clean water and food production, according to panelists who participated in Food Dialogues®:Toledo. The biggest challenge is inadequate funding to improve knowledge, management and infrastructure.

The entire conference is available for viewing at

Experts from city government, agriculture, business, environment and science discussed multiple facets of the issue and and answered audience questions during the live, online interactive event, which was hosted by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance®, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Corn Marketing Program, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and the Ohio Soybean Council.

Food Dialogues®:Toledo took place May 28 in the city where last August nearly 500,000 residents experienced a several-day water ban due to toxic algae entering the city’s Lake Erie water intake. Agriculture has been identified as a major source of the nutrient runoff that feeds the algae.

Event moderator and broadcast journalist Gail Hogan clearly framed the issue noting that society can’t face “a choice between food and water. We have to have both. How do we do that?”

Panelist Josh Knights of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio said “there are few better approaches than collaboration,” while citing his group’s work with several farm organizations to find practical solutions.

Farmer Terry McClure, a board member for the Ohio Soybean Council, said during the panel “I can’t tell you how proud I am of ag in Ohio and how we’ve taken this on.” He said farmers are currently doing “the best job we can” to reduce nutrient runoff, but “I suspect we will learn tomorrow a better way than what we know today.”

The panelists agreed that fixing Ohio’s water challenges will require a great deal of investment. Research and development of new farming practices, improvements in city water facilities and repairing leaky septic systems were cited as necessary but expensive parts of the approach to meeting water and food demands.

Meeting those demands simultaneously will take a great deal of thought, according to Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher who pointed out the risk of unintended consequences. Fisher recognized how crucial it is to fix today’s water challenges, but added “I don’t want to be up here on a panel in 10 years figuring out how to feed people.

Other panelists included Sandy Bihn of Toledo Lighthouse Society and Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc., Chuck Campbell of City of Toledo Public Utilities, Rich Nachazel of Destination Toledo Inc., Adam Sharp of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Jay Martin of The Ohio State University.

The online conversation during the event included several compliments about how Ohio’s public and private sectors have addressed difficult challenges. Des Moines, Iowa blogger @jmschroeder tweeted “Other states should study Ohio’s (water) strategies and collaborative efforts.”

Ohio Farm Bureau invites everyone to view the event and add to the conversation by visiting


CONTACT: Joe Cornely

PHONE: (614) 246-8230

E-MAIL: [email protected]

Photo caption: Food Dialogues®:Toledo panelists included (from left) moderator Gail Hogan, Sandy Bihn of Toledo Lighthouse Society and Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc., Chuck Campbell of City of Toledo Public Utilities, Rich Nachazel of Destination Toledo Inc. and Adam Sharp of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.