In the latest episode of Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Water Quality and Research talks with a representative from our neighbors up north, Laura Campbell. Campbell manages the agricultural ecology department for Michigan Farm Bureau.
Hoewischer and Campbell discussed how issues in Michigan can impact Ohio, and vice versa, particularly as they relate to water quality. They compare and contrast what’s going on across the state line.
Field Day with Jordan Hoewischer is an ongoing series of conversations with experts and leaders who are helping to shape and secure the future of Ohio’s ag industry for generations to come.
Following are some highlights from this episode. Complete transcript
Q: Ohio and Michigan share a lot of priority issues, such as water quality. What are some things that you’re working on in Michigan, what are the hot button topics?
A: Water quality is one of our continuing hot topics and one that’s of really high importance to our members. Lake Erie is a very small portion of the state, but it has kind of an outsized influence because of how much media attention it gets. We’ve got a lot of other areas in the state that we’re looking at to be the potential next Lake Erie. Our Saginaw Bay Area has a lot of the same conditions: shallow waters, lots of ag, lots of people pointing fingers at farmers. So we want to keep on top of what’s going on, what the newest solutions are, how do we help farmers be part of the solution so that they are not being regulated and being blamed for problems.
Q: How do you manage so many waterfronts? I’m sure there’s water going every which way and there’s different bays and different areas for influence from nutrients. How do you handle that from a Farm Bureau side?
A: It gets very complicated particularly because we’ve got so many different regions of the state that have so many different localized issues. Lots of specialty crops, lots of different conditions depending on which lake shore you’re on. So, really what we do is try to work with our state agencies and with NRCS and other USDA programs to customize as much as possible the programs and the practices that farmers can use. That’s actually where our stewardship program comes into play. The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP, because that does individualized farm-by-farm plans and prescriptions for activities on your farm to help you with your stewardship.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles for not only the farmers but on the certification side – the people who are actually doing the certifying of the farms?
A: Some of the challenges that we had, really a lot of them, surround the cost of the program. We do align ourselves, and align the standards of the MAEAP program, with NRCS standards so that you’re eligible for cost share under those programs if you’re working toward MAEAP. But…the cost can be a hindrance. There are some other logistical challenges, too. There are barriers that keep farmers from ever being able to be verified, but they’re still doing a lot of good practices.