Producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin will get the aid of $20 million spread across three new assistance programs, Ohio Department of Agriculture director Dorothy Pelanda announced Tuesday.
Ohio Senate Bill 299 was signed in 2018 and provided $23.5 million for soil and water conservation districts in the Western Lake Erie Basin for nutrient management programs. ODA has already distributed $3.5 million to 24 SWCDs in northwest Ohio.
At the 2019 Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts annual meeting held Tuesday, Pelanda announced plans for the remaining $20 million, to be spread across three new assistance programs:
• The Ohio Working Lands Program will encourage producers to establish year-round vegetative cover on eligible cropland. The program will promote the conversion, establishment and maintenance of forage and hay land on certain cropland acres. Also, there will be a new incentive payment to encourage producers to re-enroll acreage through the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. This will help reach the 67,000-acre goal and increase conservation efforts.
• The Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program will be a partnership with the Ohio Agribusiness Association, in which producers are reimbursed for soil testing and nutrient management plans. This would help to ensure the 4R principles are put in place.
• The Cost-Share and Equipment Buy-Down Program will provide producers with funds to purchase technological improvements to agricultural land, equipment and structures to reduce nutrient loss.
“This $20 million suite of practices will go a long way toward our clean water initiatives and helping us set the tone for water quality efforts statewide,” said Pelanda. “Our agency looks forward to working with producers to implement meaningful programs that make progress toward our common goals of soil and water conservation.”
Kris Swartz, past president of the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and a northwest Ohio farmer, said, “Ohio’s farmers are committed to doing their part to keep nutrients on our fields and out of our water, and these programs will help us do that. I’m confident interest for these programs will be strong, and I know our soil and water districts are ready to put them into practice.”
Producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin are encouraged to contact their local soil and water conservation district office to learn more and sign up for these new programs.