An opinion editorial submitted by President, Brent Hostetler to the Columbus Dispatch
Ohio’s farmers committed to clean lakes and streams
It is vital that Ohio improves the quality of its waterways and, in particular, reduces the algae blooms in areas such as the western basin of Lake Erie. Our residents deserve clean water and in the public interest, The Columbus Dispatch has taken great strides to communicate the issue to readers.
Farmers share the concern about the quality of Ohio’s waterways and enjoy taking their families fishing in Ohio’s lakes and canoeing in Ohio’s rivers. Passion for the land and environment is a value shared by all Ohioans including farmers. Farmers not only take pride in putting food on kitchen and dining room tables, but also in sharing our abundant water resources.
Water quality issues did not become a problem overnight. In fact, different phosphorus related issues were present in the 1970s and were successfully solved with the aid of Ohio’s farmers, who made voluntary improvements to how they farmed their land. So history shows that farmers have improved their farming practices to address water-quality problems and they are rising to the challenge once again.
There are many sources of phosphorus that are beyond farmers’ control. For example, industrial pollution, private septic systems, municipal waste from failed sewer systems and urban storm runoff are other, non-agricultural sources.
Research is critical because many questions remain regarding nutrients such as phosphorus getting into waterways. For example, algae blooms are occurring in areas with little to no agricultural activity and outside the state’s population centers.
Farmers are taking action and funding research to do their fair share to help keep our waterways clean. With an investment of more than $1 million, Ohio’s agricultural organizations –including the Ohio Soybean Council, Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program and the Ohio Corn Marketing Program – have partnered with The Ohio State University (OSU), OSU Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service to do on-farm, edge-of-field testing to determine the best way to keep nutrients on the farm to better ensure we have healthy watersheds.
This research project, already in progress, will determine new insights into how phosphorus is used in agriculture, how it leaves farm fields and how much of it is actually entering Ohio waterways.
Equipment is being placed in strategic locations throughout the state to collect continuous and extensive data. OSU researchers and the USDA will examine previous water quality studies, collect new data and validate the best possible farming practices to keep phosphorus on the fields. The results will serve as the basis for developing farmer decision-making tools that will help to reduce the impact on the environment and help keep nutrients on the field to feed the crops as intended.
While the research will help better identify issues and lead to more definitive solutions, farmers are not sitting idle and waiting for the results. Farmers across Ohio have been and will continue to take action to contain nutrients on their farmland.
Overall, the use of phosphorus has declined in Ohio. With better crop varieties and more advanced farm equipment, farmers strive for precision when applying the right source of fertilizer at the right time, right place and right amount, thus producing more with less. This is known as 4R Stewardship. Tools and resources – from in-person classes to online seminars – assist farmers in how to implement 4R Stewardship.
To help reduce the loss of fertilizer from fields, farmers are creating customized nutrient management plans that account for different soil types, crop rotations, water flow and nutrient needs. These are just a few examples of how Ohio farmers are continuously working to manage resources efficiently and reduce waste.
Just as farmers work tirelessly to produce bountiful crops each year, we dedicate that same commitment to addressing water quality. Clean water is everyone’s business.
Respectfully submitted by:
Farmer representative of Ohio’s corn, soybean and wheat organizations
Plain City, Ohio