The state’s H2Ohio farmer incentive program is gaining more momentum and expanding into 10 additional counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
The program, which offers funding to farmers who implement proven conservation practices that limit agricultural phosphorus runoff from fertilizer, is now open to farmers in Crawford, Erie, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Wyandot counties, bringing the total number of counties eligible for the program to 24.
“Our food growers and producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin want to be part of the solution, as evidenced by the 1,800 farmers who participated in the program’s first year,” said Gov. Mike DeWine. “By expanding H2Ohio’s farmer incentive program into more counties in the area, we’ll continue to slow phosphorus runoff, which will ultimately contribute to a reduction in Lake Erie algal blooms over the long term.”
Ohio’s operating budget signed July 1 provides $120 million over the next two years to continue and expand funding to farmers who work to reduce phosphorus runoff.
“We are excited to not only move forward with these important conservation practices in our original target area of the Western Lake Erie Basin, but also be able to incorporate these practices into an even greater area,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda. “Interest is incredibly strong, and ODA is committed to working with our farmers to help them navigate the process of conserving their water and land resources, while advancing water quality in our state.”
The original Aug. 31 enrollment deadline for H2Ohio in the 10 county expansion area will be extended as follows:
Signup for small grains and cover crops – extended until Sept. 15
Signup for VNMPs only – extended until Oct. 15
Interested farmers should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District.
Farmers in the original 14 participating counties, comprising Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, Williams and Wood, will continue receiving incentives during the program’s second year and have already enrolled more than 1 million acres of cropland in the program.
“After the early success of H2Ohio, we appreciate Governor DeWine expanding the program even further, recognizing that using public-private partnerships and having resources for farmers to use right there on their farm instead of a broad sweeping, one-size-fits-all approach is the best way to tackle such complex issues like nutrient management and clean water,” said Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Adam Sharp. “Farmers already involved in H2Ohio have stepped up in a big way and have proven that voluntary programs work when they are given the right tools for the job. We look forward to working with farmers in the additional counties now involved in H2Ohio as they continue the important task of keeping Ohio’s water healthy.”
DeWine launched H2Ohio in November 2019 as a long-term, data-driven water quality plan to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure, and address lead contamination in Ohio. The initiative is a collaboration involving ODA, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Erie Commission and other environmental, agricultural, and educational partners. It is the first comprehensive state program that addresses all aspects of water quality.