H2Ohio moves forward

After a lot of anxiety about whether the launch of Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio water quality initiative would need to be delayed a year or cut due to the coronavirus pandemic, farmers in northwest Ohio recently received some good news about the program.

Late last week, Ohio Director of Agriculture Dorothy Pelanda announced $50 million to fund the first year of H2Ohio. Funds will be made available to farmers currently enrolled in H2Ohio programs.

“This exceeds ODA’s expectations and positions the department to continue building valuable, conservation-based relationships with producers,” Pelanda said. “Although details are yet to be worked out, we plan to move forward quickly to meet with the 2,000 farmers who have enrolled more than 1.1 million acres, in addition to working closely with the 14 SWCDs to help them achieve necessary staffing levels.”

Pelanda added that although COVID-19 complications caused ODA to miss this growing season, she is confident that they will cover the 2021 conservation crop year in its entirety, which will begin this fall. Funding for the following years remains uncertain at this time due to the uncertainty of the economy brought on by the pandemic, but she remains optimistic.

The focus on the 2020 crop year will be on forming nutrient management plans for farmers in the 14 counties of the Maumee River Watershed.

“The COVID-19 crisis has put an economic strain on nearly every industry across Ohio, including agriculture,” said Adam Sharp, Ohio Farm Bureau executive vice president. “H2Ohio moving forward is great news during these trying times and shows that the DeWine administration is just as committed to clean water as the thousands of northwest Ohio farmers who have already signed up for the program. We thank the governor for his understanding that agriculture is as eager as ever to continue to be a major part of the water quality solution. These funds will help farmers put nutrient management plans in place as soon as possible, allowing them to implement more best nutrient management practices to improve water for years to come.”

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative, of which Ohio Farm Bureau is a member, added:

“OACI looks forward to continuing our work to advance statewide farmer certification programs, to support smart investments in on-farm conservation measures and to provide Ohio’s farmers with the tools and resources they need to do their part to improve water quality in the state.”

As Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts await further instructions about H2Ohio, farmers who have already signed acres into the program are being asked to review their applications to decide what practices they may want to implement on their farms this fall.