Shared from the 3/25/2019 Sandusky Register eEdition

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Farmers get incentives

The annual algal blooms that turn Lake Erie’s western basin into a green mess every summer have gained a lot of finger pointing, talk and attention from politicians. But what we haven’t seen is a lot of action in solving the complex problem.

That is slowly changing as evidenced by the Ohio Working Lands program.

Funded by the Clean Lake 2020 bill authored by Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, and former Sen. Randy Gardner, the program hopes to encourage farmers to curb runoff from their farmland, thus preventing algaecausing phosphorous from being fed into Lake Erie’s many tributaries.

Farmers who establish a year-round vegetative cover on eligible cropland will be reimbursed for not planting on that land at a rate of $120 per acre for a five-year contract. There is no cap on what farmers can receive from the program as long as they meet the requirements, according to Breann Hohman, Firelands Coastal Tributaries watershed coordinator.

Subsidizing farmers up to $600 per acre over five years to create a buffer zone and protect our lake’s watershed from fertilizers and other nitrogen sources may not cure the lake’s algae problems, but it’s a good start.

We are not sure $120 per acre is adequate for what farmers could potentially earn off that land, but providing a financial incentive to farmers to help curb the lake’s phosphorous loading is better than asking them politely.

While more needs to be done to protect and clean up Lake Erie, we hope this program makes a measurable difference and gives farmers a real stake in the health of the lake.

Want to participate?

Call Erie Soil and Water Conservation District at 419-626-5211 or visit the office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at room 131 at the county offices complex at 2900 Columbus Ave., Perkins Township.

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