As part of his H2Ohio initiative, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the state will allocate about $30 million for farmers to prevent phosphorus runoff, which has led to algal blooms forming in Lake Erie.
“Ohio farmers want to be part of the solution to water quality concerns in our state,” Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda said in a news release. “The [ODA] is excited to work with our partners to help farmers implement these best practices which is a critical first step toward achieving better water quality through H2Ohio.”
The runoff causes algae and bacteria to grow quicker in water sources, leading to a greenish discoloration at the surface of water beds. These are known as algal blooms, some of which produce harmful toxins, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The toxins can harm both people and the environment.
The funding comes out of the $85 million that lawmakers designated to DeWine’s H2Ohio environmental initiative, according to Shelby Croft, communications director for the ODA. She told The Center Square the money would go directly to farmers who will implement best practices outlined in the governor’s initiative.
Only farmers in the northwest portion of the state are eligible for the funding. Farmers can apply for funds beginning Feb. 1.
“Since announcing the details of my H2Ohio plan in November, we’ve had a great deal of interest from farmers in the Maumee River Watershed who want to do their part to improve the health of Lake Erie,” DeWine said in a news release. “H2Ohio will provide farm-by-farm support to help farmers minimize phosphorus runoff while increasing profit over the long-run.”
Farmers who receive the funds will be able to invest it in 10 different interventions designed to reduce nutrient runoff, including soil testing, conservation crop rotation, drainage water management and edge-of-field buffers.
The H2Ohio initiative is a partnership between the Ohio EPA, the ODA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Lake Erie Commission and a coalition of research, conservation, education and other partners.
The initiative will also provide funding for infrastructure improvements to poor septic systems in disadvantaged communities and infrastructure improvements to areas in which schools and daycares are at risk of lead poisoning. Ohio will also designate additional wetlands as part of the initiative.