Ohio takes big step to slow Lake Erie algae

Law will require most farmers to be trained and certified before using commercial fertilizers on fields
Associated Press
Jun 15, 2014

Ohio is taking its biggest step yet toward tackling the algae fouling Lake Erie.

But there's no guarantee it will cut down on the contaminants feeding the algae or slow its spread, which poses a threat to the fish, drinking water and tourism. And it will take several years to determine whether the new rules focusing on farmers will make a difference.

The law will require most farmers to undergo training and be certified by the state before they use commercial fertilizers on their fields.

The goal is to decrease the amount of phosphorus-based fertilizer that runs off fields into streams and rivers and then nourishes the algae in Lake Erie.

"It's a positive step forward, but it's a small step," said Kristen Kubitza, director of water policy for the Ohio Environmental Council.

The law doesn't take effect until 2017 and won't force farmers to use less fertilizer. There also won't be any inspections to make sure farmers are applying the fertilizer correctly. That part is up to them.

The primary focus of the legislation is centered on educating and training the agriculture industry about the need to use new techniques to reduce runoff.

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and other agriculture industry groups have been asking farmers to take proactive steps for more than a year and do their part to reduce phosphorus runoff before government regulators step in and impose their own restrictions.

Farm organizations in the state have put $1 million toward research to determine how to keep phosphorus on the fields and out of the waterways. Once completed, it will help teach farmers the best times and ways to apply fertilizer.

"That's where we need to start," said Jerry Bambauer, president of the Ohio Soybean Association.

He said farmers care about the environment and want to see expensive fertilizers stay on their fields instead of being washed into streams. He also thinks the farm community will be more willing to solve the problem once they know why it's happening.

"We'd like to have it solved tomorrow, but it's going to take time no matter how we do it," Bambauer said. "It can't be cleared up overnight. We just don't want it to get worse."

Algae blooms during the summer have become more frequent and troublesome in Lake Erie, the shallowest of the five Great Lakes.

Toxins produced by the algae have contributed to oxygen-deprived dead zones where fish can't survive. There already is concern that another large algae outbreak could crop up this year following heavy spring rains that washed more pollutants into the lake's tributaries.

Environmental groups and lawmakers in Ohio and other states in the Great Lakes region will be watching to see if the voluntary steps farmers are being asked to take will be enough to turn around the algae problem.

The International Joint Commission, an advisory agency made up of Canadian and U.S. officials, released a report in August that said urgent steps are needed, recommending that governments in both countries require "best management practices" to reduce phosphorus applied to fields.

It also suggested banning the spread of manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.

That idea was pulled from the legislation approved in Ohio.

Rep. Mike Sheehy, a Democrat from the Toledo suburb of Oregon, said not including rules for regulating manure makes the law less effective.

"It's one of those issues that we cannot as a state continue to ignore," he said. "Until we address the issue, we're playing with poison."

 

Comments

CestLeVie

I never post on these things, but OMG - this isn't about saving the lake. This is about creating a new way to collect fees for the state through licensing.

The Big Dog's back

ABTTR. Anything but tax the rich.

Darwin's choice

Completely agree, and the "posturing" by the state really misses the biggest culprit....the millions of gallons of raw sewage that are allowed to flow unchecked into the lake!

YoMamma

I heard that if the farmers used the stuff made in Milan it would end run off. I think the state should look at that instead of finding new ways to collect money.

Whiskey Tango F...

The farmers wish they were allowed to use the amount of chemical per acre as a golf course or chem lawn. It's not just them!!!!

Unassumer

Water in Port Clinton is already the most expensive and now they plan to up the cost to clean out the algae. Passing it on to the consumer as usual.

ohioengineer

Wow! This is actually very encouraging: using education to address a problem rather than the usual government sledgehammer of regulation. What a novel idea! Hopefully, this cooperation of environmentalists and business is a sign of things to come and not just the old "camel's nose under the tent" way of starting another regulatory nightmare.

Let's hope it is the former. Can you imagine the problems that could be solved if people worked together to determine the best solution instead of those in charge just saying do it my way or the highway? (Reference the Global Warming fiasco where our federal government has arbitrarily decided to spend trillions of our tax dollars to combat a problem that may not even exist.)

But kudos for Ohio on this issue. Also, I see the same type of cooperation on fracking, where it appears that both sides are working together to do what is best for both the economy and the environment. Now if we can figure out a way to keep the fanatics on both sides from mucking things up, we might actually solve some problems.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

If you don't already listen to it, ohioengineer, you may like this program on WJR Sundays at 7:00. It's called "Greening of the Great Lakes".

http://www.greeningofthegreatlak...

I occasionally roll my eyes at things that are said but the vast majority of topics are meant to approach things in a commercially viable way using science and logic, not environmentalist scare tactics/browbeating.

Dr. Information

From the article "But there's no guarantee it will cut down on the contaminants feeding the algae or slow its spread, which poses a threat to the fish, drinking water and tourism. And it will take several years to determine whether the new rules focusing on farmers will make a difference.".................. This isn't a solution, just more regulation and taxing that will be passed down to the consumer.

OMG.LOL.WT_

So the farmers have to pay for training and licensing BUT "The law doesn't take effect until 2017 and won't force farmers to use less fertilizer. There also won't be any inspections to make sure farmers are applying the fertilizer correctly. That part is up to them." It's a money maker.