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OHIO — Ongoing concerns about the fate of Lake Erie and other Ohio waterways have state officials pushing new programs designed to reduce any potential negative consequences of modern agricultural practices.

Through a series of informational evenings hosted by the ODA and various Soil & Water Conservation Districts, ag professionals are introduced to H2Ohio, a recently emplaced program designed to help those in the ag industry address ongoing concerns regarding run-off and its effects on Lake Erie in specific, and the State’s waterways in general. H2Ohio targets 14 Northwest Ohio counties in the Maumee River watershed: Allen, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, Williams, and Wood Counties.

Through the program, farmland owners are incentivized to reduce potential run-off issues with payments of $200 per acre or more by adhering to as many as seven Best Management Practices, all of which are designed to help protect the State’s waterways, including:

• The creation and implementation of a voluntary nutrient management plan.

• The application of phosphorous at a variable rate.

• The subsurface placement of phosphorous.

• Compliance with established manure application guidelines.

• The growth of conservation crops in rotation.

• The use of overwintering cover crops.

• The management of drainage water.

The moneys appropriated for this push represent the ODA’s portion of the total dollars dedicated to the effort: $30.1 million of a total $172 million.

Commenting on the standing-room-only nature of attendance at recent events, Ohio Department of Agriculture Dorothy Pelandra said, “This is amazing. We’re so honored and pleased that farmers are coming here to hear about what H2Ohio is, the dollars the department is going to give farmers, and to answer any questions they have. The turnouts indicate to us that farmers really care about conservation, really believe that it can be done through voluntary conservation efforts, and we believe in that, too.

“We have farmers right in this community who are already doing all the right things. They serve as an example of the things we want every farmer to consider doing. These seven practices are science-based, and we know if farmers engage in these practices, they will do two things; they will retain the nutrients on the ground, and they will retain the water on the ground.”

As Pelandra asserted, the program is strictly voluntary. For more information, contact your local Soil & Water Conservation District.