COLUMBUS — The H2Ohio farmer incentive program is expanding to 10 additional counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin according to a news release from the state.
Governor Mike 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 program offers money to farmers who implement proven conservation practices that limit agricultural phosphorus runoff from fertilizer.
Phosphorus runoff is the primary factor behind algal blooms on Lake Erie.
The new state budget included $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 which include Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Mercer, Putnam and Van Wert, will continue to receive incentives during the program’s second year.
“The signup by agriculture producers in the initial 14 counties that make up the Maumee Watershed in the Western Lake Erie Basin exceed our preliminary goals,” stated Clark Hutson, H2Ohio WLEB Program Coordinator in an email to our questions.
“Over one million acres are enrolled in the development of a Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan, or approximately 40% of the cropland acres in these 14 counties. Nearly 2,000 producers are currently participating in the program.”
So how does the program help farmers economically?
“Incentive payments for implementing these practices are paid on a per-acre basis and will help offset any increased cost of production or mediate the potential risk of a reduction in net profit from decreased yields,” Hutson stated.
The program does not currently affect those in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed but is primarily geared toward protecting water that flows into Lake Erie. Farmers in Mercer and Auglaize Counties can participate in the program and that could have a positive impact on the algal blooms at Grand Lake St. Marys.
“This collaboration between the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission has created innovative solutions to address the water quality in the Maumee River Basin and Lake Erie. The nutrient loads in Lake Erie and the Western Lake Erie Basin are affected by many factors and over many years. It will take several years of practice implementation to reach our ultimate goal, but we are confident that we are heading in the right direction,” Hutson stated.
Virtual meetings will be held later this month for farmers in the newly eligible counties to provide more information on H2Ohio’s conservation programs:
• July 20, 6:00 p.m.
• July 22, 9:00 a.m.
• July 28, 6:00 p.m.
• July 29, 1:00 p.m.
The meetings will be held via Microsoft Teams. More information about the meetings, including links to join, can be found at h2.ohio.gov.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.