Helping Ohio Agricultural Producers Improve the Great Lakes
Apply by July 18, 2014
COLUMBUS, OH, June 30, 2014 – A study conducted in 2013 by The Ohio State University* found that a majority of the farmers in the Lake Erie basin believe that their land management choices can impact the Lake’s water quality. However, the study also revealed that only a minority of these farmers take advantage of conservation programs to help them use best management practices (BMPs) that help improve water quality. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) would like to see that minority become a majority.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), established in 2010, provides a way for NRCS to focus on conservation that improves natural resources in the Great Lakes watershed. By targeting conservation assistance to portions of the Lake Erie watershed, agricultural producers have a better chance of receiving financial and technical help from NRCS to plan and adopt best management practices (BMPs). This year, NRCS selected the St. Joseph, St. Marys, Upper Maumee, Lower Maumee, Auglaize, Raisin, Ottawa-Stony, Blanchard, Cedar-Portage, and Sandusky watersheds to offer $3.5 million in GLRI funding.
NRCS consulted with others in the conservation arena to select the Blanchard River Watershed, a sub-watershed of Lake Erie, for increased conservation assistance intended to reduce phosphorus run-off. Excess phosphorus entering into Lake Erie’s streams and rivers fuels algae growth as the water warms. Phosphorus used by producers to improve plant growth can end up in the Lake, but conservation BMPs reduce the chance of this happening.
The improvements in Lake Erie water quality seen after reducing phosphorus levels in the Lake during the 1970s show that our actions can improve our natural resources, although it can take several years to see these improvements. Water quality monitoring stations funded by the GLRI in the Blanchard Watershed’s Eagle Creek will provide data to indicate whether the BMPs put in place now improve water quality over time.
Producers interested in applying for conservation financial and technical assistance to plan and implement conservation BMPs should contact their local NRCS office before the July 18, 2014, application deadline. For more information on the GLRI, conservation assistance, and local office locations visit www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov.
* Wilson, R.S., L. Burnett, T. Ritter, B. Roe and G. Howard. 2013. Farmers, phosphorus and water quality: A descriptive report of beliefs, attitudes and practices in the Maumee Watershed of northwest Ohio. The Ohio State University, School of Environment & Natural Resources.
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