Your July 3 article “Toxic algae threatens western Lake Erie” is commendable. Little mention though, was made of manure.
Since the last time Lake Erie was pristine, in the mid-1990s, a dramatic change in Ohio agriculture has occurred. There has been a major increase in the number of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
Two watersheds, Grand Lake-St. Mary’s and the western Lake Erie basin, exhibit the harmful effects of dissolved phosphorus. Both of these watersheds have comparatively high numbers of CAFOs.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and other stakeholders have embarked on a program to educate farmers about the seriousness of the problem and what needs to be done to mitigate this intolerable situation.
The “4Rs” of nutrient stewardship — the right fertilizer, the right rate, the right time, and the right place — are the model developed to accomplish the goal.
CAFOs are required to have manure nutrient management plans. Smaller operations are encouraged to develop such plans.
But Mother Nature and the reality of farming do not always cooperate. Ideal windows for fertilizer application do not always exist. Because manure is costly to transport, too frequently the closest fields get the most manure. That results in elevated phosphorous levels and runoff.
Discussion is under way in Columbus among state agencies, lawmakers, and stakeholders to craft practical legislation to solve this urgent challenge and remedy distressed watersheds in Ohio.
The Ohio Farmers Union will be at the table, doing its part to help bring about a positive outcome.
President, Ohio Farmers Union Fremont