Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda has announced new assistance programs for producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin funded by the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299.
Signed in 2018, the bill 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 recent 2019 Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Annual Meeting, 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 crop land. The program will promote the conversion, establishment, and maintenance of forage/hay land on certain cropland acres. There will also 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 acre goal and increase conservation efforts.
• The Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program will be a partnership with the Ohio Agribusiness Association, in which producers are reimbursed for soil testing and 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,” Pelanda said. “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 a 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.”
Chris Henney, president and CEO of the Ohio Agribusiness Association, said members understand the importance of helping farmers practice proper nutrient stewardship and the 4Rs. “We’re excited to be part of these programs and stand ready to help northwest Ohio farmers,” he said.
Producers located in the Western Lake Erie Basin are encouraged to contact their local soil and water conservation district office to learn more and sign up for these new programs.