OFBF comments on plan to reduce phosphorus entering Lake Erie

The state of Ohio recently released a draft plan to reduce the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. Ohio Farm Bureau’s analysis indicates the plan is science based, results oriented and adaptable to changing knowledge and needs. Importantly, it recognizes multiple sources that contribute to nutrient loading. However, in public comments submitted in response to the plan, Ohio Farm Bureau called for the state to acknowledge farmers’ proven ability to protect water quality through voluntary measures.

Ohio’s draft plan calls for prioritizing watersheds in the Western Lake Erie Basin, furthering the use of nutrient best management plans for agriculture and point-source discharges such as sewage systems, fixing failing septic systems and better coordination of programs and funds. The plan is Ohio’s proposal to comply with the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement, which calls for reducing phosphorus loads into Lake Erie by 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025. Leaders from Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, Canada signed the agreement last year.

The Ohio Lake Erie Commission will oversee Ohio’s efforts. The plan will be implemented by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio departments of agriculture, health and natural resources.

In its public comments on the plan, Ohio Farm Bureau repeated its assertion that the farm community is unmatched in its investment of identifying the causes of threats to Ohio’s waters and creating solutions. Further, OFBF cited a 2016 Natural Resources Conservation Service report that quantifies the results of voluntary nutrient management practices. One finding is that in the WLEB, 58 percent of the cropland is managed with phosphorus application rates at or below crop removal rates. It also shows that 99 percent of the WLEB cropland currently has at least one conservation measure in place.

OFBF continues to remind regulators, lawmakers and the public that water and food production are equally valuable resources for Ohioans. Preserving water quality and protecting viable farming must be parallel goals.