At the beginning of 2019, a group of Ohio agricultural organizations, including Farm Bureau, along with conservation and academia groups, met with environmental group leaders to form the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative.
The goal of this unique collaboration is to improve water quality by establishing a baseline understanding of current conservation and nutrient management efforts and build farmer participation in a new certification program.
In the early discussions about this project, a key observation was that there are many farmers currently implementing sound environmental practices on their farms. However, finding a measurable way to quantify how many farmers have already implemented best practices to preserve Ohio’s water quality is necessary.
To that end, OACI has established a two-phase approach to its plan: assessment and certification.
The assessment aspect will begin with confidentially taking inventory of farm practices to establish a baseline of current conservation and nutrient management practice adoption. The pilot survey is slated to be conducted in the Lower Maumee Watershed.
The certification program will be administered by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and will launch in the 14 counties of the Maumee River Watershed (with plans for an eventual statewide program). To be certified, farms must demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement in the implementation of conservation and nutrient management practices. The certification program will help late adopters identify and provide to them resources that will help them adopt science-based conservation practices.
Both phases are expected to begin in early 2020.
The H2Ohio program, launched by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2019, will use OACI’s certification program to ensure funds get to farmers who demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement through implementation of best management practices. Those not meeting the minimum criteria for certification will be given tools to create an action plan to become certified and will be eligible for H2Ohio funds to support their work.