H2Ohio Program: Ohio’s Plan for Greener Farming and Water Quality Enhancement

Toledo Blade newswire reported that Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Brian Baldridge recently visited the Toledo area to promote Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, urging a broader adoption of its grant offerings among agricultural producers. The program, flourishing with nearly 2,400 participants predominantly from northwest Ohio, incentivizes practices that protect water quality, such as planting cover crops and conducting precise soil tests to prevent excessive phosphorus use.

H2Ohio, which presently covers about 1.4 million acres, compensates farmers who adopt state-endorsed best management practices aimed at reducing nutrient runoff into water bodies. With ambitions to extend the program’s reach, Baldridge seeks to increase enrollment during this fall’s signup period, targeting a more substantial portion of the eligible land.

The state encourages agricultural stakeholders to embrace these practices voluntarily, emphasizing that overuse of fertilizers like phosphorus and nitrogen not only contributes to pollution but is also economically wasteful. In his efforts to rally the farming community, Baldridge engaged in direct outreach, including phone calls from the Lucas Soil & Water Conservation District office and a roundtable discussion at Loeffler Farm near Swanton.

Toledo Blade emphasized that during his tour, Baldridge met with Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson, who recognized H2Ohio as a promising venture for water quality improvement. She also pointed out the need for ongoing attention to large livestock operations, which have significant environmental impacts.

Farmer Steve Loeffler, hosting the discussion on his property, expressed support for H2Ohio, suggesting it could help preempt stricter regulations by promoting voluntary compliance with sustainable practices. He emphasized the urgency of engaging more farmers to mitigate phosphorus pollution and protect ecosystems like Lake Erie.

The Ohio General Assembly has backed the agriculture department’s involvement in H2Ohio, allocating $60.6 million annually for the fiscal years 2024-2025. The program also encompasses efforts by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to create and enhance wetlands and by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to advance infrastructure, reflecting a comprehensive approach to environmental stewardship and water quality.

Source: The Blade

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