The Ohio Department of Agriculture has been blown away by the thousands of farmers who signed up for H2Ohio funds in the 14 counties of the Maumee Watershed prior to the revised March 31 deadline. Ohio farmers stepped up to the plate and signed up over a million conservation practice acres in a short amount of time. OFBF commends the 14 county Soil and Water Conservation Districts for their hard work and due diligence in a narrow time frame and their continued efforts as champions of conservation.
“The Ohio Department of Agriculture applauds Ohio farmers’ demonstration of voluntary conservation through the overwhelming sign up of H2Ohio best practices to reduce phosphorus in the Maumee River Watershed. Nearly 2000 farmers submitted applications to enroll more than 1.1 million acres. This far exceeded expectations for the agricultural portion of the H2Ohio program,” said Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. “While the rollout of the program was very thoughtfully executed, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a necessary re-evaluation of ODA’s budget for the H2Ohio Initiative. ODA is committed to working within the administration’s budgetary guidelines and will communicate with farmers the status of H2Ohio going forward based upon those guidelines once they are known.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to state budgeting and it is likely that H2Ohio funds will be negatively affected. Despite this, Ohio Farm Bureau has been working with ODA and the DeWine administration to gain clarity on what dollars will be available for the H2Ohio program.
With last week’s sign-up deadline now complete, the administration is finalizing the full scope of dollars requested as well as trying to determine what funds will be available based on the economic situation the state now faces. For those who signed up for funds through their local SWCD office, SWCD does not have updated information on the future of the program yet. However, once ODA provides a directive, the local SWCD will be the best point of contact to know how to proceed.
At this time, Ohio Farm Bureau recommends producers not make any major investments that would be dependent on a H2Ohio funding application. Farmers should not overextend themselves beyond what their farm is capable of financing but are strongly encouraged to continue the important conservation practices they are undertaking so that agriculture can continue to improve Lake Erie’s water quality. It is expected more information will come soon from ODA and an update will be provided as soon as that information is available.