In the first year of Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative, Ohio agriculture has gained an incredible amount of ground in implementing agriculture’s portion of this unprecedented statewide water quality program.
Ohio farmers in the targeted 14 counties in the Maumee River Watershed showed overwhelming participation. In the first program year, 1,815 farmers enrolled 1,092,852 acres, or approximately 44% of the cropland in the targeted project area, in six proven, science-based conservation practices: voluntary nutrient management plans, variable rate application, sub-surface nutrient application, manure incorporation, conservation crop rotation, and overwintering cover crops.
In addition to these best practices to be implemented on cropland, producers have signed up for 681 drainage water management structures, which will be installed over the next calendar year in 13 of the 14 targeted counties, with the largest number in Wood, Henry, Putnam, Paulding, and Williams. Approximately 10,000 acres of cropland will be controlled by drainage water management structures.
“Nothing is more important than clean lakes and access to clean drinking water, and Ohio farmers have clearly demonstrated that they want to be part of the solution,” said Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda. “ODA sincerely thanks the farmers and industry for their support and also the General Assembly for its continued leadership, commitment, and backing of H2Ohio, and its data-driven approach to addressing the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.”
Producers applying for H2Ohio incentives have committed to implementing these best management practices for a three-year period, understanding that ODA could only guarantee incentive payments the first year of implementation. ODA anticipates that producer interest for the second and third years of the H2Ohio program in the targeted project area will match the enrollment progress. Annual funding of $42 million will be required to pay out incentives associated with implementing best practices in the targeted project area.
Funding for a second year of BMPs in the target area for growing season 2022 has been secured.
ODA is working to expand H2Ohio programs into the remainder of the Western Lake Erie Basin counties. To accomplish this, ODA has applied for federal funds.
ODA has continued a close working relationship with the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI). Producers enrolling in the H2Ohio program are also registering with OACI. OACI registration requirements will be included in the H2Ohio contract extensions offered to producers in 2021.
Governor DeWine launched H2Ohio in November 2019 as a long-term, data-driven water quality plan to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure, and address lead contamination in Ohio. It is the first comprehensive state program that addresses all aspects of water quality.