What Are States Doing About Agricultural Nutrient Impacts on Water Quality?

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law. Originally published in the Ohio Ag Law Blog

Sparse dry weather conditions haven’t dampened concerns about the extent of agricultural water quality problems we may see when summer weather finally arrives.   Despite the weather, harmful algal bloom (HAB) predictions for the summer are already out and are one important  measure of water quality impacts that are attributed to agriculture.   As HABs arise, so too do the questions about what is being done  to reduce HABs and other water quality impacts resulting from agricultural production activities.  We set out to answer these questions by examining key players in the water quality arena:  the states.

In our new national report, State Legal Approaches to Reducing Water Quality Impacts from the Use of Agricultural Nutrients on Farmland, we share the results of research that examines how states are legally responding to the impact of agricultural nutrients on water quality.  After examining state laws, regulations and policies across the country, we can make several observations about state responses to the agricultural water quality issue. Continue reading

NW Ohio Producers Can Get Paid for Growing Perennial Forage

By: Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist

The Ohio Department of Agriculture recently announced a new conservation program entitled the “Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program” to establish year-round vegetative cover on eligible cropland in the Western Lake Erie Basin Watershed. 

This is a great opportunity to improve soils and conserve nutrients on the land while having two ways to gain income: first from the value of the forage produced and secondly from annual payments through the program. Continue reading

A New Lake Erie Battle: Lucas County Sues U.S. EPA Over Western Basin Water Quality

By: Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

Disagreements over how to improve the health of Lake Erie have led to yet another federal lawsuit in Ohio. This time the plaintiff is the Board of Lucas County Commissioners, who filed a lawsuit in federal court in April against the U.S. EPA. The lawsuit accuses the U.S. EPA of failing to enforce the federal Clean Water Act, which the county believes has led to an “alarming” decline in the water quality of western Lake Erie. Continue reading

ODA Announces Ohio Working Lands Small Grains Program and Other Updates of WLEB Programs

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is announcing an additional assistance program for producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin funded by the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 299.

The Ohio Working Lands Small Grains Program is a voluntary program that will encourage producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin to plant small grains such as wheat, barley, oats, or cereal rye on eligible cropland. As the “working lands” name implies, participants must plant and harvest small grains, land apply manure, and plant a cover crop to receive a cost-share payment to help offset operating costs. The program benefits the planting of small grains not only for the conservation benefits, but to provide livestock producers with a longer application window to land apply manure and nutrients. Continue reading

Ohio Attorney General Yost Asks To Join In The Lake Erie Bill Of Rights Lawsuit

By: Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The Ohio Attorney General filed a motion in the Drewes Farm Partnership v. City of Toledo case seeking to intervene as a plaintiff alongside the Drewes Farm Partnership. The motion argues that the state of Ohio has a significant interest in the protection of Lake Erie, along with a significant interest in supporting Ohio’s agricultural, environmental, and natural resources laws. Continue reading

Keep an Eye Out for Water Quality Risk This Spring

By: Greg Labarge, OSU Extension Field Specialist

Research measuring nutrient losses from surface and subsurface drainage in Ohio indicates that not all fields contribute equally to various water quality issues. Fields with higher than average potential losses have some characteristics observed during everyday field activities or when working with agronomic records.  For example, a stream bank collapsing and sloughing off is adding to downstream sedimentation issues, or a field with a soil test report showing phosphorus levels above agronomic need can result in higher soluble phosphorous losses. Continue reading

Keeping Phosphorus Out Of Waterways

Previously published by Ohio Ag Net

In a pit about 3 feet underground lies one possible solution to reducing a large amount of the phosphorus draining from some of Ohio’s agricultural fields.

At two locations in the state, researchers with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) are testing phosphorus filters that have removed up to 75% of the phosphorus running through them. Phosphorus can be found in commercial fertilizers and animal manure. Continue reading

New Lake Erie Lawsuit Filed Against U.S. EPA

By: Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Ohio State University Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program

We can’t say that Lake Erie is back in the news, because lately it hasn’t left the news. However, there is a new lawsuit in federal court that seeks further action from either the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Ohio EPA regarding Lake Erie water quality. Filed on February 7, 2019 by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Toledo-based Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, this new lawsuit alleges that the U.S. EPA improperly signed off on action taken by the Ohio EPA to designate Lake Erie as an impaired water body without implementing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to restrict discharges such as agricultural runoff. The plaintiffs weren’t necessarily unhappy about the designation, but they were not happy about the lack of a TMDL. Continue reading

New ODA Director Changes Course of Watersheds in Distress Rulemaking

By: Evin Bachelor, Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program, Ohio State University

Less than a week into the administration of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a new approach to watersheds in distress has emerged. Director Dorothy Pelanda assumed the helm of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in days ODA had changed the status of the proposed watersheds in distress rules in the Register of Ohio to “To Be Refiled.” Continue reading

New Phosphorus Research Project for The Maumee Watershed

By: Ohio Ag Net staff

Some farm fields in northwest Ohio’s Maumee River watershed have more phosphorus than their crops can use. Called “elevated phosphorus fields,” such fields may be at higher risk of contributing to Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms.

That’s the premise of a new five-year, $5 million study that hopes to learn about those fields and lower that risk by creating new public-private partnerships.

Led by Jay Martin, an ecological engineering professor with The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the study plans to monitor and manage more than a dozen elevated phosphorus fields, all in the Maumee River watershed. Continue reading