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Funding for water quality initiatives is essential
By Joe Cornely
It is well documented that farm nutrients, both commercial fertilizers and manure, are contributing to phosphorus loading in Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Marys, other Ohio waters and even downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.
Which is why farmers are acting to make near term improvements and discover long-term solutions that still allow efficient and profitable farming.
Farmers and their organizations are undertaking a variety of immediate, voluntary measures including adoption of 4R nutrient stewardship practices (right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time with the right placement) and they’re communicating with fellow farmers about the importance of accepting responsibility and acting responsibly.
Long-range efforts include investment of farmers’ dollars into edge-of-field research and working with legislators and regulators to craft effective, balanced public policy.
Solving the problem also depends on adequate funding of the public institutions best suited to help farmers protect the environment, a fact Farm Bureau is emphasizing with lawmakers.
Scientists still have many unanswered questions about why the algae problem has increased so dramatically. Those questions must be answered before solutions can be proposed. At a time when the public is demanding resolution, it is important for the state to devote the necessary resources to researching solutions.
Farm Bureau members are asked to remind lawmakers of the direct link between water quality and the amount of state money invested in OSU Extension, ATI and OARDC, the Ohio Sea Grant program, the National Center of Water Quality Research at Heidelberg University, Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Soil and Water Resources.
Ohio State University
OARDC and Extension: Ohio’s research, development and information delivery system gives farmers important tools and knowledge. A 3.1 percent increase in funding will allow water quality work to be done without taking resources away from other priorities such as food safety and youth development through 4-H.
“The necessity of finding a solution to water quality cannot be overemphasized. There is an economic imperative – lost nutrients are a cost to producers and a cost to society in terms of public health, tourism, and environmental sustainability. There is also a public good imperative – we owe a healthy environment to our children and grandchildren.” ~ Dr. Bruce McPheron, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, during budget testimony before the Ohio House.
Sea Grant and Heidelberg University
Ohio Sea Grant promotes stewardship of Lake Erie via research, education and outreach by leveraging a small amount of state support to generate significant federal and private funding There is no funding in the budget as introduced, Sea Grant has requested that $300,000 in funding be restored. OFBF supports this program and its funding request.
Heidelberg’s National Center of Water Quality Research is the leader in research and monitoring of surface and groundwater in the Great Lakes region. Funding, which has been cut off, needs to be fully restored.
“I have every confidence we can fix this, but I don’t think we can just throw a bunch of money around. Some of the best data we have comes out of Heidelberg.” ~ Marion County farmer and avid Lake Erie fisherman Don Ralph, talking about the need to fund Heidelberg’s water quality lab.
The House Finance Committee unveiled changes to the state budget bill April 9. Farm Bureau has been actively engaging lawmakers on funding priorities important to agriculture. Nearly every priority OFBF advocated for was addressed by House amendments to the bill including OSU Extension, OARDC and Sea Grant. We appreciate the House members' attention to these important issues. Heidelberg's funding was not restored in these proposed changes, and Farm Bureau will continue to advocate for this program.
The bill must now be voted on by the House Finance Committee and the full House. After that, the bill will move to the Senate for further review. There is still time for many changes so Farm Bureau will need to continue to work to ensure all our priorities are included as a part of the final budget package.
Contact your legislator through the Farm Bureau 'Ohio's Budget Affects Agriculture' Action Alert.
Joe Cornely is senior director of corporate communucations for Ohio Farm Bureau