Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018
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Farmers get details on federal grants to fight western Lake Erie algae

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About 50 farmers and members of the agriculture industry met at Swartz Farm in Perrysburg Township today to hear how $17.5 million of money from the federal Farm Bill is being made available to help fight western Lake Erie algae.

Grants will be made to individual farmers over the next five years as part of a new tri-state venture between the states of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana to promote better farming practices within the vast western Lake Erie watershed, which encompasses more than 4 million acres of land.

Ohio will get 70 percent, or about $12.2 million, according to Terry J. Cosby, the state conservationist assigned to Ohio by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers can start submitting applications July 1. Federal money can pay for 75 to 90 percent of some projects, Mr. Cosby told reporters after the event.

“We depend on the landowner walking through the door,” Mr. Cosby said.

Priorities include more cover crops, controlled drainage structures, precision nutrient application, buffers, and windbreaks, all strategies that aim to keep more nutrients on the land and out of Lake Erie tributaries, he said.

The event included comments from Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Jim Zehringer, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler, and Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels, as well as representatives from Michigan and Indiana state government.

Mr. Zehringer announced plans, as part of the latest budget bill, to transfer the Ohio DNR’s soil and water unit to the state agriculture department. He said the Kasich administration believes that will streamline soil- and water-conservation efforts.

The transfer is expected to take place Jan. 1, Mr. Zehringer said.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said Ohio will move forward with a recent agreement signed in Quebec by the Council of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers to seek a 40 percent reduction in nutrient loading into the lake, a mixture of mostly farm runoff but also sewage overflows and broken septic systems, he said.

“The best science of the days shows us that is what’s needed for Lake Erie,” Mr. Butler said.

The council’s action affirmed a reduction goal that has been promoted by many Great Lakes scientists and other governmental bodies since Lake Erie had its record algal bloom in 2011.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079 or on Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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