Special to 1812Blockhouse
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda announced this week that H2Ohio’s farmer incentive program is 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 Seneca, Huron, Erie, Wyandot, Richland, Shelby, Sandusky, Marion, Ottawa, and Crawford counties, bringing the total number of counties eligible for the program to 24. Phosphorus runoff is the primary factor behind algal blooms on Lake Erie.
“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 Governor 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 new bipartisan operating budget, passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Governor DeWine last week, provides $120 million over the next two years to continue and expand funding to farmers who work to reduce phosphorus runoff.
Farmers in the original 14 participating counties, including Williams, Fulton, Lucas, Defiance, Henry, Wood, Paulding, Putnam, Hancock, Van Wert, Allen, Hardin, Mercer, and Auglaize, will continue receiving incentives during the program’s second year and have already enrolled more than one million acres of cropland in the program.
“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 ODA 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.”
Virtual meetings will be held later this month for farmers in the newly eligible counties to provide more information on H2Ohio’s conservation programs. More information on these meetings is available at h2.ohio.gov.
Governor 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.