H2Ohio Inititative payments begin

Staff report

Initial payments are going out to farmers enrolled in Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative for improved water quality.

The first incentive payments will be distributed to 154 farmers for completed and approved Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans (VNMP).

Through the H2Ohio program, farmers are incentivized for implementing proven conservation practices to help reduce phosphorus runoff. A completed and approved VNMP is one of the seven identified practices and is required for all farmers enrolled in the program.

Local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) boards must review and approve VNMPs before incentive payments are distributed. Of the 14 counties involved in H2Ohio, Putnam, Hancock, and Auglaize SWCD boards have approved 154 VNMPs which include 98,000 acres, totaling approximately $197,000 in payments. Remaining SWCD boards will continue to meet throughout the spring to approve VNMPs and allocate payments.

“The Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans are an important component of our H2Ohio initiative because they lay the groundwork to begin to reverse the serious water quality issues in Lake Erie,” DeWine said. “It is great to see farmers’ commitment and enthusiasm about reducing phosphorus runoff into Ohio’s waterways through this science-based approach.”

Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda added, “The agriculture industry wants to do its part toward Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio water quality efforts, demonstrated by the large number of farmers and the volume of acreage enrolled in these proven conservation programs. These first payments to farmers are showing the progress of this important initiative, as ODA continues its daily work with local SWCDs to keep these efforts moving forward swiftly.”

VNMPs are a cornerstone agronomic tool that provide a base on which other best management practices are built. An approved VNMP uses current soil tests based on realistic crop yields to determine if additional nutrients are needed. Utilizing nutrient management plans allows producers to implement conservation practices that best fit their cropland.

In 2020, 1,750 farmers enrolled more than 1,080,000 acres of cropland in VNMPs in the targeted 14 counties within the Western Lake Erie Basin in the H2Ohio Program.

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.

Pelanda and farmers enrolled in H2Ohio are available for interviews. Contact Lauren Niner for further information.

Staff report