Enrollment in H2Ohio begins next month

Larry Limpf

Beginning Feb. 1, farmers in 14 Northwest Ohio counties may apply for funding from H2Ohio – a program designed to reduce algal blooms in Lake Erie by assisting growers with preventing phosphorus run-off from fields.
Applications are being processed by Soil and Water Conservation District offices. The state is allocating $30 million for farmers in Lucas, Wood, Putnam, Van Wert, Paulding, Mercer, Henry, Hardin, Hancock, Fulton, Defiance, Auglaize, Allen and Williams counties.
Informational meetings to explain conservation practices funded by the program will be held throughout the counties in the Maumee River Watershed, including a meeting Feb. 4 at 3 p.m. at Owens Community College. Personnel from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and SWCD offices will explain the application process
The $30 million is part of an overall $85 million allocation provided by the state legislature for H2Ohio in the first year of the biennium budget. Conservation practices covered by the program include:
-Soil testing
-Variable rate fertilization
-Subsurface nutrient application
-Manure incorporation
-Conservation crop rotation
-Cover crops
-Drainage water management
-Two-stage ditch construction
-Edge of field buffers
-Wetlands management
The remaining first-year funds will focus on reducing phosphorus runoff through the creation of wetlands, as well as on improving water quality by preventing lead contamination and addressing failing septic systems.
Matthew Browne, a conservation technician with the Lucas SWCD office, said all of the practices being funded by the H2Ohio initial program have been adopted by growers in varying degrees of popularity.
“It's usually a matter of cost that has prevented producers from participating in them previously; so it will likely depend on the incentives for these practices that will determine their popularity in H2Ohio,” he said.
Shelby Croft, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the H2Ohio practices will be funded through cost-share arrangements and more details will be provided at the meetings.
When Gov. Mike DeWine announced the H2Ohio initiative, he described it as a “comprehensive, data-driven approach to improving water quality over the long term.”
“Ohio has supported many programs to help farmers reduce nutrient loss over the years, but the state hasn’t done nearly enough, nor have previous plans focused enough, on reducing phosphorus runoff from agriculture," said Gov. DeWine at the time. "That changes now."


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