Ag department touts H2Ohio expansion Week Of 11/29/2021

Larry Limpf

In testimony last month to the Ohio Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Dorothy Pelanda, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, praised the H2Ohio Initiative as it expands.
“We also recognize how important House Bill 7 is to the H2Ohio effort – passed late last year by the General Assembly. HB 7 creates a statewide watershed planning and managing program with the goal of improving and protecting these areas as it pertains to water quality,” she said. “ODA is tasked with hiring a coordinator in each of these seven watersheds, with specific experience and qualifications. We are currently in the hiring process for these positions and have a pool of qualified candidates. We are thankful to the legislature for their diligent work with HB 7 and the H2Ohio Initiative as a whole.”
The program offers funding to farmers who implement conservation practices that limit agricultural phosphorus from fertilizer running off fields into tributaries of Lake Erie.
The ODA and Gov. Mike DeWine announced in July that H2Ohio was being expanded into 10 additional counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin: Seneca, Huron, Erie, Wyandot, Richland, Shelby, Sandusky, Marion, Ottawa and Crawford counties.
Farmers in the original participating counties, Williams, Fulton, Lucas, Defiance, Henry, Wood, Paulding, Putnam, Hancock, Van Wert, Allen, Hardin, Mercer and Auglaize, will continue receiving incentives during the program’s second year and have already enrolled more than one million acres of cropland in the program.
The state’s most recent operating budget provides $120 million over the next two years to fund farmers who adopt measures to reduce phosphorus runoff with the goal of preventing algal blooms in Lake Erie.
While the H2Ohio initiative has drawn praise from the Ohio Farmer Bureau Federation and others, another group, Lake Erie Advocates has criticized it for not putting enough emphasis on curbing manure from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.
The organization has sponsored various protests on what are also called ‘factory farms” in the watershed.
"We are speaking up for Lake Erie and the 25 million animals confined in factory 'farms' in the Western Lake Erie watershed" said Mike Ferner, Lake Erie Advocates (LEA) coordinator. "Wherever people are from, they will be glad to see that Toledoans care deeply about their Great Lake. As a grassroots, all-volunteer group, it's important for us to communicate with people every way we can."
For over a month, LEA ran a series of billboards in Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland this summer with the Ban Factory "Farms" message and raised additional funds for airplane banners.
“No one, from farmers to state department heads to the governor can tell whether the programs funded by H2Ohio are working because systems to adequately measure the ‘before and after’ effects do not exist. H2Ohio programs are all voluntary, with no accountability in place to even determine, much less guarantee results,” a prepared statement from the group says.


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