Ohio farmer testifies before Congress about agriculture community’s water quality efforts

Ohio farmers are committed to finding solutions to the state’s water quality challenges, investing both their time and money on conservation efforts, an Ohio farmer and conservationist testified Tuesday before a U.S. House of Agriculture subcommittee.

“Farmers have invested tens of millions of dollars of their own money in establishing conservation practices on their farms,” said Terry McClure in his written comments to the House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee. McClure is Ohio Soybean Council vice chairman, past president of Ohio Farm Bureau and an Ohio Nature Conservancy board member.

A recent federal report shows farmers’ voluntary conservation measures in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) are starting to make “significant headway in reducing nutrient and sediment loss from farms,” McClure said in his written testimony, noting that no single conservation solution will meet the needs of each field and farm. The study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows 99 percent of WLEB cropland acres are managed with at least one conservation practice.

“As a farmer in the Western Lake Erie Basin, I know these important findings reflect the sentiment of those that work every day to make sure that our land and our water are the healthiest they can be,” said McClure, a fifth-generation farmer.

McClure testified that while the agricultural community has an extensive history of water quality efforts, he wanted to highlight a few projects in particular beginning with 2012 when 20 traditional and organic commodity organizations, the Federation of Soil & Water Conservation Districts and Ohio State University sent a joint letter to members stating that farmers must proactively solve the issue of nutrient run-off.

Not long after that, farmers began implementing voluntary 4-R measures (using the right fertilizer source, at the right time, at the right rate and the right placement) and Healthy Water Ohio was launched. McClure was on the steering committee of Healthy Water Ohio, which developed a long-term water resource management strategy for Ohio based on input from more than 200 businesses and individuals.

In terms of research, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, Ohio Soybean Association and Ohio AgriBusiness Association in partnership with USDA’s NRCS invested $2 million to conduct  edge-of-field research on how to keep more nutrients on fields and out of waterways.

For the past three years, McClure has had edge-of-field equipment on both surface and subsurface drainage at his Paulding County farm. The research on his property and other farms throughout Ohio will be used to identify good management practices as well as to help modify Ohio’s Phosphorus Risk Index.

McClure also testified about Ohio Farm Bureau’s collaboration with NRCS on a five-year $1 million demonstration farm project along the Blanchard River. Three demonstration farms in the Western Lake Erie Basin will serve as models to share new conservation techniques and practices with farmers, land managers, media and the public.

“(Farmers) are committed to implementing voluntary measures that are science-based and that will yield results,” McClure said.  “Farmers stand ready and willing to take voluntary measures that address water quality and food production simultaneously.”

To learn more about farmers’ water conservation efforts, visit farmersforwater.org

Ohio Farm Bureau membership