Ohio Farm Bureau launched its $1 million Water Quality Action Plan about 1½ years ago, setting the stage for the organization’s long-term commitment to addressing the state’s water quality challenges. The plan has required a high degree of cooperation and collaboration among farmers, universities and federal, state and local agencies. The ultimate goal is to protect the state’s water resources and preserve farmers’ ability to grow food.
- A look at recent progress in the Water Quality Action Plan:
Fertilizer certification classes: Through its numerous print and social media outlets, Ohio Farm Bureau has been promoting Ohio State University Extension’s fertilizer certification classes. Under Senate Bill 150, anyone who applies commercial fertilizer on more than 50 acres must be certified by Sept. 30, 2017. More than 10,000 applicators have been certified, representing over 1 million acres in Ohio. See a list of classes.
- Nutrient Management Plans: Ohio Farm Bureau provided funding for the hiring of four specialists who are helping farmers develop nutrient management plans (NMPs) in the Western Lake Erie Basin. NMPs detail responsible fertilizer use and these plans would exceed state legal requirements. The April 2016 issue of Buckeye Farm News profiles these individuals and the benefits of having a nutrient management plan in place.
- Demonstration farms: Ohio Farm Bureau and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have been working together to set up three demonstration farms in the Blanchard River watershed, which has been identified as a potential source of phosphorous in the Great Lakes. The demonstration farms will run through 2020 and showcase both traditional and innovative ways farmers can reduce and prevent nutrient runoff. The farms will be open to farmers, policymakers and the public.
- Healthy Water Ohio: Ohio Farm Bureau is working with partners on details for the creation of a public-private Ohio Water Trust proposed in a report released by Healthy Water Ohio, a coalition of water stakeholders. Healthy Water Ohio proposed the water trust be funded at $250 million annually with a portion of the funding coming from the sale of state bonds. The trust would provide funding to treat the root causes of Ohio’s clean water challenges, be science-based and include both gray and green infrastructure.
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program: Ohio Farm Bureau has helped promote and provide in-kind contributions to the Tri-State Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The federal program is providing $17.5 million to farmers in the Western Lake Erie basin who put in pollution-control measures.
April 15 deadline to apply for county water quality grants
Last year, Ohio Farm Bureau funded 12 county Farm Bureau projects that focused on improving and protecting Ohio’s water resources. The project was such a success that the OFBF board approved a new round of funding.
The grants will be awarded to county Farm Bureaus on a dollar-for-dollar match for local water projects that are collaborative (involving partners such as commodity groups, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and conservation groups). Last year, Ohio Farm Bureau contributed nearly $140,000, and projects ranged from a nutrient management mobile app to educational workshops to the purchase of a no-till drill for putting in cover crops. With additional matching funds from partners, last year’s projects gathered more than $400,000 in total resources.
Examples of the types of projects that are eligible for financial support include those that inform and educate Farm Bureau members, decision-makers and the public about local, regional and/or statewide water issues, assist in the demonstration and implementation of management measures that lead to a positive impact on water quality, and local surface and/or groundwater monitoring and assessment activities.
Single or multi-county Farm Bureau projects will be accepted. Applications are due April 15 by 5 p.m.