Across the Table: H2Ohio

When farmers see an opportunity, we take it. If there is a narrow window to plant, we head to the field. When the price of soybeans or corn jumps, we haul a truckload to the elevator.

In 2020, an opportunity is presenting itself for Ohio agriculture in the 14 counties of the Maumee River Watershed as sign-ups have begun for farmers interested in incentives for implementing approved nutrient management practices. This should grab the attention of every farmer because these sign-ups will soon spread statewide.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, funded at $172 million, is designed to ensure safe and clean water for all Ohioans. Some of this money will be used for “green” projects and to update community-level water infrastructure. A large part of this investment will be a great resource to help farmers reduce phosphorus runoff through the adoption of best practices that are cost-effective and proven to work.

Water quality has been a priority for Ohio Farm Bureau for many years — so much so that we put together the Healthy Water Ohio coalition back in 2013. This effort gathered input from hundreds of interested groups and individuals from around the state and produced some strong ideas from a collective group of stakeholders about what could be done to improve our state’s water.

One of the concepts that came from Healthy Water Ohio was a water bond. The coalition, which included the agriculture, conservation, environmental and industrial communities, continued working through the water bond idea and although it was rejected by the previous administration, it drew the interest of many state legislators.

As the DeWine administration took the helm, the governor’s focus on water quality was clear. So we shared our ideas to gauge his interest. He appreciated the unique collaboration we formed and he incorporated key concepts our coalition offered, but decided that there was a better way forward from a funding standpoint. So, with the support of Ohio Farm Bureau and our friends, he worked with the legislature to create H2Ohio through the state’s two-year budget last year.

This initiative, which provides incentives for a farmer’s use of 10 approved best practices, is meaningful and has been well thought out to help farmers manage nutrients in ways that are cost-effective, will produce the most impact for the dollar and will be long lasting.

A lot has been asked of agriculture recently to minimize our impact of phosphorus runoff and algal blooms in Lake Erie. H2Ohio includes important pieces to the water quality puzzle for farmers: science and funding.

Gov. DeWine said when he rolled out H2Ohio that more drastic measures could have been used. I encourage you to take advantage of this funded, voluntary program, because without progress on the state’s water goals, additional regulatory measures could come next. At the same time we must expect others to pull their weight to get the results we are working toward. 

Learn more about H2Ohio at H2.Ohio.gov and if you farm in the Maumee River Watershed, get signed up at your local Soil and Water Conservation District today. This is the opportunity that farmers have been asking for and we should all step up and take full advantage of it.