Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Brian Baldridge today announced the statewide expansion of H2Ohio’s incentive program for agriculture producers.
The program, led by ODA, provides funding to producers to help offset the financial risk associated with implementing H2Ohio’s proven agricultural best management practices (BMPs) that work to improve Ohio’s water quality. Currently available only to farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin, producers anywhere in the state will be eligible to participate in H2Ohio beginning in 2024.
“Northwest Ohio agricultural producers have stepped up to put H2Ohio practices in place that are scientifically proven to reduce the nutrient runoff that contributes to algal blooms on Lake Erie,” said Governor DeWine. “With the expansion of this program statewide, we can now tackle the issue of nutrient runoff in other parts of the state and improve the quality of even more Ohio waterways.”
Enrollment for farmers outside of the Western Lake Erie Basin will open in early 2024, but enrollment is limited to a total of 500,000 new acres statewide. Incentives for new H2Ohio participants will be offered for the completion and implementation of Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans (VNMPs), H2Ohio’s cornerstone practice that reduces the risk of the over-application of nutrients while also allowing producers to use practices that best fit their farming operations. Local Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) work directly with each producer to approve VNMPs, assess the compatibility of implementing additional BMPs, and provide conservation education.
SWCDs are now hosting informational sessions for producers to learn more and sign up for H2Ohio.
“The agricultural community continues to be engaged and dedicated to Ohio’s water quality,” said ODA Director Brian Baldridge. “We must continue H2Ohio’s progress to reach more farmers and encourage them to implement these best practices on their farm operations. Healthy soil makes clean water.”
Governor DeWine launched H2Ohio in 2019. Since then, producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin have enrolled 1.4 million acres into the program, reducing phosphorus runoff by an estimated 317,000 pounds.
Producers in the original H2Ohio project area (Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lucas, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, Williams, and Wood counties) are currently eligible to enroll or re-enroll acreage into VNMPs and other BMPs including overwintering crop cover and subsurface phosphorus placement.
H2Ohio is a comprehensive, data-driven approach to improving water quality over the long term. H2Ohio focuses on encouraging agricultural best management practices, restoring wetlands, and replacing home septic systems to reduce nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms. For more information on the H2Ohio initiative, please visit h2.ohio.gov.