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Ohio farmers discuss newly expanded H2Ohio program

Local farmers are signing up for the newly expanded program at the Ottawa County Fair and discussing practices they take to prevent fertilizer runoff into waterways.

OAK HARBOR, Ohio — The H2Ohio program is in its third year. The state-funded program provides financial incentives to farmers in the Maumee River watershed to help protect Lake Erie.

Two weeks ago, the state announced it was expanding the H2Ohio program to the agriculture industry along the Sandusky and Portage Rivers.

RELATED: 10 new counties now eligible for H2Ohio incentive program

“Here in Ottawa County, we are right on Lake Erie. Our farmers see Lake Erie every day. We know the tourism impact in this area,” said Mike Libben, with the Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Libben is also a farmer. He farms mostly corn soybeans and wheat near Oak Harbor.

The goal of H2Ohio is to promote better farming practices to prevent phosphorous runoff, which ultimately will help Lake Erie.

One of the incentives, is helping to defray the cost to farmers of planting cover crops, which, when planted after the main harvest, help reduce erosion, and hold nutrients in the soil.

“A lot of them have tried cover crops, but maybe they’re not consistent with it. Prices fluctuate, grain markets fluctuate, costs. When there’s a little incentive there that ‘hey, here’s an extra $25 an acre’. That might be the difference between doing cover crops or not doing cover crops,” said Libben.

Among the ten new counties added to the program are Seneca, Sandusky, and Ottawa Counties.

RELATED: Lake Erie algal bloom forecast to be mild for second straight year

At the Ottawa County Fair this week they have a display to begin signing up farmers for H2Ohio. There’s been a positive response.

“Everybody seems to be doing what they should be doing anyway so I don’t think we should have any problems,” said Ottawa County farmer Sheldon Miller. Everybody should adapt to it just fine we will pick it up and carry on do what we need to do to help out I guess.”

The nutrient management plan involves getting soil tested, putting only the amount of fertilizer needed in that acre, so you don’t waste it.

Less fertilizer means less phosphorous.

Another way farmers can reduce phosphorus runoff is with drainage control systems.

Tiles collect excess water, which is saved for dryer periods of weather.

Click here for more information about the H2Ohio program.