I don’t want any farmer to go bankrupt or stop farming, and I know how hard it is to make a living at farming these days, but there are some harsh facts to face regarding algal blooms in Lake Erie. Though farming is not the only factor causing the algal, it is one of the main ones.
Surface water and silt runoff need to be controlled. Would you drink Toledo city water during an algal bloom? During the bloom in August and September of 2017, stores in Toledo could not keep bottled water on the shelves even though the city said the water was safe to drink. Toledo will soon begin to, or already is — drawing water from the Williams County aquifer. This concerns many of that county’s residents as to the future of their own water supply.
Does this mean that we are losing the lake as a water source?
What leaves your property does have an affect on those down stream. This includes everyone, whether you live on a farm or not. If any other business or industry would put in our waterways what agriculture does on a yearly basis, they would be fined until the problem was corrected or put out of business. When there is any kind of new construction of an industrial or commercial business, the first thing done is constructing a silt fence around the area. Yet, nearby can be hundreds of acres of open farm ground with no runoff control at all.
If these are the standard requirement of other industries, why not agriculture?
Some farmers address these problems, but many have not. With the EPA requiring a 20 percent reduction of phosphorus by 2020 and a 40 percent reduction by 2025, I would think time would be of essence.
What can farmers do?
• Stop farming the road right-of-ways and re-establish the grass along the roadways. These grass strips act as a filter between the fields and the road side ditch. These are public right of ways and should be maintained as such for public safety. How many times has anyone come to a stop sign and can’t see cross traffic because of a corn field. If that is the case they are farming too close to the road.
• Follow the rules. If there is a 10-foot setback from a ditch rule running through your property, follow it. I’ve also notice many farmers still spreading manure on frozen ground.
• Landowners should establish some kind of runoff plan for the control of the runoff from their properties. When a rainfall as little as a 3/10 to a 1/2 inch of rain turns the creeks and rivers brown, this shows that there is too much quick easy runoffs from the fields. If some of this is done over the years and the cost spread out it could have less of an impact on the bottom line. 2025 is only 6 years away, you can be proactive to the problems or reactive to when 2025 comes around. The choice is yours.
Michael Siefker Ottawa