The Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Ohio AgriBusiness Association are joining forces to streamline the approval process of Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans for farmers participating in the state’s H2Ohio water quality initiative to reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie.
With this new partnership, OABA and Ohio’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts will approve VNMPs that have been developed as part of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, a proactive, responsible commitment aimed at the long-term improvement of water quality.
This voluntary, annual third-party auditor verified program will provide a science-based framework for plant nutrition management and sustained crop production, while considering specific individual farm’s needs. The certification program requires participants to adopt proven best practices through the 4Rs, which refers to using the right source of nutrients at the right rate and right time in the right place. Thousands of farmers are already established with the 4R program through their certified ag retailer.
“When it comes to a nutrient management plan, there are a lot of different ways to put one together and when we found out what ODA’s VNMPs were required for H2Ohio, we realized that our program has all of those same components,” said Andrew Allman, executive director of the Nutrient Stewardship Council, which oversees the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program. “Now, if a farmer is already working with one of our certified ag retailers, the process of having their VNMP approved becomes much more efficient.”
Developing a VNMP
Farmers who haven’t developed a VNMP are encouraged to contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office to learn more about the benefits of developing a plan, which provides recommendations for nutrient management and records all nutrient applications.
OACI enrollment online or via app
Beyond establishing a VNMP, another requirement of H2Ohio is enrolling in the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative Farmer Certification Program, which will help farmers take conservation programs to the next level. Enrolling only takes a few minutes and can be completed from anywhere by visiting the OACI website or by downloading the new app (OACI Certifications) from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
“The first step is for the farmer to put their information into the system. Things like who they are, where they are located, what types of crops they grow and if they already have a nutrient management plan,” said Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of water quality and research who spearheaded the app’s development. “Once that information is gathered, the app will help guide farmers to becoming certified and will allow them to qualify for H2Ohio dollars.”
OACI’s Farmer Certification Program will not only help improve soil health, but will also improve yield, cost-efficiency and deliver cost savings for farmers through practical, workable soil health solutions.
The no-cost program is administered by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and is available to farmers throughout Ohio.
Farmers participating in the H2Ohio program must be enrolled in the OACI Farmer Certification Program by March 31, 2021.