Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Standards to Guide Agricultural Practices in Northwest Ohio

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

In west central Ohio, we are familiar with water quality problems because of the issues experienced at our inland lakes over the last several decades. Most recently, we learned how changes to agricultural practices and advancements to the way we manage ecological systems in and around Grand Lake St. Marys are resulting in reduced nutrient loading in the lake. It will still be some time before harmful algal blooms are a thing of the past, but we can use what we have learned from this process and apply it to the watersheds feeding the western basin of Lake Erie. Using best practices that have been tested will be the most effective way to reduce nutrient loading in Lake Erie.

Over the past few months, I have engaged with local farmers, commodities groups, government leaders and the Army Corps of Engineers to work for solutions in the western basin of Lake Erie. Experts have said that agriculture is not the only source of nutrient loading in the Maumee River tributaries, but that agriculture does represent a bulk of the types of phosphorous found in those waterways.

Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 61 both seek to address issues that are causing the nutrient loading from agriculture practices, to waste water treatment and dredging. These bills provide some ideas about how to achieve success in reducing nutrient loading in northwest Ohio. In western Ohio, we are the largest agricultural producers in Ohio. For that reason, I will continue to defend our agricultural practices and our ability to keep our way of life.

As we continue this discussion, it is important to find a balance in continuing our agricultural practices as we always have, while at the same time improving the practices so that our farmers can be more efficient and better stewards of the environment. There is no bigger fan of protecting the natural environment than the American farmer because they depend on a healthy environment to make a living.

In northwest Ohio, the nutrient loading is a little different than what we are used to in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed. In the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, the large livestock population has led to much of the phosphorous runoff being blamed on the over application of manure to farm ground. Farmers in the area have worked diligently to improve this and their work is paying off.

In northwest Ohio, scientists believe much of the phosphorous is coming from over application of chemical fertilizers. These farmers are paying to apply chemical fertilizer that is being washed off their fields. Improving agronomic practices in northwest Ohio may lead to saving these farmers money while helping the environment.

Solutions to the nutrient loading issues in the Maumee river tributaries can be found by studying the changing agricultural practices in the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed. It is clear that each of these areas have different obstacles. Continued discussions with the experts will lead to the best solutions being put in place. Ultimately, no solution will work unless we fully understand the environmental issues with our agricultural practices, waste water treatment systems and the way we handle material from dredging our shipping channels in Lake Erie.

Please give me your opinion on this topic and others in the news this month by completing an online survey at http://tinyurl/buchymarch2015

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