Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda announced new assistance programs for producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin funded by the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299.
Signed in 2018, Ohio Senate Bill 299 provided $23.5 million for soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) located in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) for nutrient management programs. ODA has already distributed $3.5 million to 24 SWCDs in Northwest Ohio.
“Water quality is a top priority of our administration,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Roughly three million Ohioans rely on Lake Erie for their drinking water. These programs are a good step toward promoting better water quality and more will come.”
At the 2019 Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Annual Meeting on February 26, Director Pelanda announced plans for the remaining $20 million, to be spread across three new assistance programs:
• The Ohio Working Lands Program will encourage producers to establish year-round vegetative cover on eligible cropland. The program will promote the conversion, establishment and maintenance of forage/hay land on certain cropland acres. Also, there will be a new incentive payment to encourage producers to re-enroll acreage through the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. This will help reach the 67,000 acreage goal and increase conservation efforts.
• The Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program will be a partnership with the Ohio Agribusiness Association, in which financial incentives are offered for nutrient management plans. This would help to ensure the 4R principles are put into place.
• The Cost Share and Equipment Buy Down Program will provide producers with funds to purchase technological improvements to agricultural land, equipment and structures to reduce nutrient loss.
“This $20 million suite of practices will go a long way toward our clean water initiatives and helping us set the tone for water quality efforts statewide,” said Director Pelanda. “Our agency looks forward to working with producers to implement meaningful programs that make progress toward our common goals of soil and water conservation.”
“Ohio’s farmers are committed to doing their part to keep nutrients on our fields and out of our water and these programs will help us do that,” said Kris Swartz, Past President of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Northwest Ohio farmer. “I’m confident interest for these programs will be strong and I know our soil and water districts are ready to put them into practice.”
“Our members understand how important our role is helping farmers practice proper nutrient stewardship and the 4R’s,” said Chris Henney, President and CEO of the Ohio Agribusiness Association. “We’re excited to be part of these programs and stand ready to help Northwest Ohio farmers.”
Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program
The Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program encourages producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed to establish year‐round vegetative cover on eligible cropland. The program promotes the conversion, establishment and maintenance of forage/hay land on certain cropland acres. As the name implies “Working Lands Buffers” act as a buffer on cropland and provide another line of defense to filter surface water while allowing participants to harvest forage from established areas.
Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is developing a program to provide financial incentives for producers to develop and submit Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans in the Western Lake Erie Basin watershed. A person who owns or operates agricultural land may develop a voluntary nutrient management plan outlining how agricultural nutrients will be applied across the agricultural operation. The plan can be submitted to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for approval. To be approved, the plan must show that the operation will apply nutrients according to scientific recommendations. By following the plan, producers can reduce input costs and decrease nutrient loss from fields to improve water quality.
Cost Share and Equipment Buy Down Program
Subsurface injection of fertilizer can reduce phosphorus loss compared to surface broadcast applications and also minimize soil disturbance relative to tillage; thus, it has been identified as an important conservation practice to help meet water quality goals in tile-drained landscapes.
Manure management and Storage
ODA will identify livestock operations that lack adequate manure storage or have unroofed feedlots with uncontrolled lot runoff. ODA will assist the facility in designing necessary components to eliminate the potential pollution.
Drainage water management utilizes water control structures to raise the water table in crop fields during the non-crop period when improved drainage is not needed.