A million dollar response: H2Ohio meetings

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader

Last week, three H2Ohio informational meetings were conducted by representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), Ohio Agricultural Conservation Initiative (OACI) and local county soil and water conservation district offices. Over 1,000 farmers and agribusiness people have attended so far according to organizers. The meetings were held in Perrysburg, Delphos, and Defiance, with every venue at capacity.

“This is a tremendous outpouring of farmers and the farming community who believe with all their hearts in the power of voluntary conservation efforts. It is a shame the general public cannot see everyone here tonight, this is tremendous,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, addressing members of the agriculture community in attendance at the Defiance meeting last Wednesday evening.

Earlier in January, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and ODA Director Pelanda announced that $30 million in H2Ohio funding would be available to Ohio farmers in a 14-county area of the Maumee River Watershed to implement select conservation practices.

During the informational meetings, Clark Hutson, Chairman and Commissioner of H2Ohio in the Maumee Basin, gave an overview of the program and goals. Hutson explained that enrollment began on Feb. 1, and will continue until March 31.

“Farmers can stop in their local county soil and water conservation office to begin the process,” Hutson said.

After the March 31 date, the program will not be closed, however enrollment will be paused until the soil and water offices can process the enrollments to that point and determine where the H2Ohio program is at in terms of total enrollment and funding. Once determined, more money can be requested from the state if necessary, and dates to resume the enrollment will be determined.

Terry Mescher, Conservation Engineer and Commissioner of H2Ohio at the ODA, explained specific details about each of the seven practice farmers can implement. Mescher highlighted the “stacking” of practices on acres where it fit, as all but two sets of practices could feasibly be done in conjunction with one another. Another point of emphasis by Mescher focused on the importance of the Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan (VNMP).

“The delivery of the H2Ohio program overall is going to be based on the Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan, or VNMP. The VNMP is the cornerstone and foundation on which the rest of the practices will be set,” Mescher said. “All the practices will require a VNMP first.”

Scott Higgins, CEO of the Ohio Dairy Producers, and Heather Taylor-Miesle, Executive Director of the Ohio

Scott Higgins and Heather Taylor-Miesle

Environmental Council explained what the Ohio Agricultural Conservation Initiative (OACI) is and who is involved in the initiative. The OACI is made-up of a number of agricultural and environmental organizations aimed at working together to advance a voluntary program to improve water quality and work toward continuous improvement.

“After reaching out to the farming community, the Ohio Environmental Council realized three things. We learned that farmers are the original stewards of the land, that farmers care a great deal about water, and that by working together we can do this,” Taylor-Miesle said.

Over the past two years, the agriculture community has been working with the environmental community to identify common goals and a path to achieve them.

“To achieve the goals of the OACI, it was quickly determined that a voluntary program that is customizable is going to be a key,” Higgins shared. “One size fits all doesn’t work. We believe that if we put together a progressive voluntary program that could identify the best management practices, which if implemented widely and broadly, we could move the needle in improving water quality.”

Jason Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau

Jordan Hoewischer, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Water Quality and Research explained what the OACI is designed to do, and how it connects to H2Ohio.

“These are really two different programs with one mission,” Hoewischer said referring to both H2Ohio and OACI. “Tax dollars are funding the BMPs through the ODA. OACI is funded by the agricultural organizations and commodity groups and environmental organizations that make up the OACI. Both programs are administered by the Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to get these programs put together.”

OACI is ultimately a farmer certification program.

“It is going to be a requirement to be a part of the OACI system to get your first year of funding,” Hoewischer said. “A farmer profile will need to be completed prior to receiving funds for the H2Ohio practices.”

Assistance will be provided by local soil and water offices and the commodity organizations to get farmers certified by OACI. The certification is designed to quantify what is currently being done on Ohio’s farmland, and also to provide assurance and documentation that farmers enrolled are doing the right things moving forward.

Additional H2Ohio informational meetings are scheduled for Feb. 11 in Wapakoneta, Feb. 18 in Coldwater, Feb. 20 in Leipsic, Feb. 27 in West Unity, and Feb. 28 in Ada.

To learn more about H2Ohio, contact the local soil and water conservation office, or visit http://h2.ohio.gov. To learn more about the OACI, visit http://OhioACI.org.

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  1. Dusty Sonnenberg
    As understood the H2Ohio program provides funds to Ohio farmers for there participation in the program to reduce the application and to reduce the runoff of phosphate,
    So where are the funds to the farmers that have done just this many years ago, and they are still practicing said protocol?
    Our operation has not used dry fertilizer or manure since 1984,which means, the runoff from our fields will be next to nothing. For example on corn, we apply around 15 pounds of phosphate via a low volume liquid (Growers Mineral Solutions 10-20-10, which weighs 11.4 lbs per gallon) per acre on the seed with approx. 160 to 180 lbs of N per ac split applied, we had pp acres last year, however the preceding year we grew our highest yield of 241bu/ac. over a 32 ac field. How? When this info is given out most believe we are stretching the truth, however far from it. Believe it our not there is an abundance of plant nutrients in the soil one just needs to discover the way to make them available, which we believe we have done. Soil bacteria thrives and become very aggressive when they have an abundance of one mineral. Which one? Calcium, We have live through all the negative press about over liming, to high of ph and many others. Plants need calcium, if they do not get the amount they need then they will substitute potash for the calcium. Of course potash KCl contains chlorine, and if you look up their atomic weight one will notice that they are almost the same. With that being said, if a farmer applied 100 lbs of KCl / acre that will yield 60 lbs of KCl or 30lbs of K and 30lbs of chlorine, the latter of which, injures or kills of a large amount of the bacteria. We know that the bacteria are very resilient and will hopefully recover but why destroy what is already there?
    If this email sparks your interest and there is interest in doing some follow up contact me. I am always ready and (so far) able to educate those that show an interest
    Very Respectfully
    Phillip Neal

  2. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!!Finally
    I’ve found something which helped me. Thanks a lot!

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