Shared from the 6/23/2018 Sandusky Register eEdition

Senate farm bill to help Lake Erie battle algae

SANDUSKY

A big Senate bill concerning farming also has important provisions for Lake Erie.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was able to obtain items to protect the lake when the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the Senate farm bill June 13. Brown is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.

According to Brown’s office, the farm bill includes these provisions sought by the senator:

n It creates a new Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) Initiative. The program would set priorities for enrolling land in the Conservation Reserve Program, targeting land that would help prevent water runoff that puts nutrients into the lake.

n Authorize advanced payments to beginning farmers as part of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program. The program would apply money to conservation programs that protect drinking water.

n Reform the Conservation Stewardship Program to make cover crops and crop rotations the top priority. The program also will be made easier to use, encouraging more farmers to take part.

These provisions were pulled out of Brown’s earlier, separate water quality bill, the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work Act.

Brown said the Senate farm bill has bipartisan support, which apparently makes it likely to get support from the full Senate.

“There’s no one magic solution. We’ve got to use every tool we have to protect Lake Erie and the jobs and local communities who depend on it — including conservation programs in the Farm Bill. By investing in the best practices we know work, this bipartisan bill is good for farmers, good for taxpayers, and good for Lake Erie,” Brown said in a statement to the Register.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, supported the provisions to help Lake Erie, a spokeswoman told the Register.

“Senator Portman supports a strong conservation title in the farm bill because conservation programs have and will continue to play an important role in reducing nutrient runoff and improving water quality in Lake Erie,” said Emmalee Kalmbach.

“He was pleased to see that the Senate bill did not make the same overall cuts to the conservation title that were proposed in the House’s farm bill, and he looks forward to continuing to work on a bipartisan farm bill in the Senate,” she said.

The Senate’s ideas of what do to with the farm bill will have to be reconciled with the House bill.

So far, the House version of the farm bill is less friendly to Lake Erie than the Senate’s, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, told the Register.

“The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Joshua Stewart said in an email to the Register. “Does not do much for Lake Erie conservation and is extremely harmful to those depending on food and nutrition assistance.”

Reach reporter Tom Jackson at jackson@sanduskyregister.com and follow him on Twitter @jacksontom.

See this article in the e-Edition Here