Ohio farmers say they’re on board with the state’s plans to slow down agricultural runoff into Lake Erie, which Gov. Mike DeWine has said is the biggest contributor to toxic algae blooms.
Farmers are joining environmental activists and conservationists in embracing how DeWine says he’ll spend $172 million in the newly created H2Ohio fund.
DeWine said farmers will get financial incentives from the state to start using science-based practices for applying fertilizer, building ditches and planting trees and shrubs.
And unlike in previous efforts, the Ohio Farm Bureau and other major agricultural players approve.
“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan project. This is a long term commitment. This is something that we want to be permanent," said Scott Higgins, the CEO of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association.
Farmers had pushed back on an attempt to toughen regulations on agriculture in an executive order from former Gov. John Kasich last year. That led to Kasich's decision to fire Agriculture Director David Daniels just before Kasich left office. But Higgins said this time it's different.
“By recognizing the needs to have the financial support to implement some of those best management practices, we now have a much better chance of even coming close to achieving the stated goal that the state of Ohio has set," Higgins said.
Farmers are part of the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI), which also includes the Ohio Environmental Council. It said it supports the H2Ohio program even though it’s voluntary because it invests in wetlands, requires commitment from farmers and establishes testing and audits to find out what will keep phosphorus out of the water.
Certification of farmers will be done by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, which is also part of OACI. And it said there will be an independent audit of certification requests.