On the same day Toledoans passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights that may make it harder for farmers to focus on nutrient runoff over frivolous lawsuits, the Ohio Department of Agriculture announced new assistance programs to help producers achieve water quality goals in the Western Lake Erie Basin, funded by the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299.
“Farm Bureau has been engaged in identifying water quality solutions for years and the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299 in 2018 was an important step in the right direction to build upon the progress that has been made,” said Jack Irvin, OFBF senior director of state and national policy. “The Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts are both important boots on the ground partners to help identify and implement practical and effective solutions to our water quality challenges.”
The legislation provided $23.5 million for soil and water conservation districts located in the Western Lake Erie Basin for nutrient management programs. ODA has already distributed $3.5 million to 24 SWCDs in northwest Ohio. The remaining $20 million wll be spread across three new assistance programs:
- The Ohio Working Lands Program will encourage producers to establish year-round vegetative cover on eligible crop land. The program will promote the conversion, establishment and maintenance of forage/hay land on certain cropland acres. Also, there will be a new incentive payment to encourage producers to re-enroll acreage through the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.
- The Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program will be a partnership with the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, in which producers are reimbursed for soil testing and nutrient management plans. This would help to ensure the 4R principles are put into place.
- The Cost Share and Equipment Buy Down Program will provide producers with funds to purchase technological improvements to agricultural land, equipment and structures to reduce nutrient loss.
“This $20 million suite of practices will go a long way toward our clean water initiatives and helping us set the tone for water quality efforts statewide,” said ODA Director Dorothy Pelanda.
The announcement has garnered widespread support from throughout the agricultural industry and from farmers eager to have resources to support their ongoing conservation efforts, including longtime Sandusky County Farm Bureau member David Myerholtz.
He lauded Farm Bureau for supporting SB 299, thereby supporting funding for “our transition costs for implementing nutrient management plans, intensive soil sampling, equipment purchases for nutrient placement, cover crops, nutrient consulting costs, variable rate prescription costs, electronic technology purchase costs and lots of other investments that are needed today on the farm to detect, monitor, apply and retain our nutrient resources for everyone’s benefit downstream.”
Producers located in the Western Lake Erie Basin are encouraged to contact their local soil and water conservation district office to learn more and sign up for these new programs.