TOLEDO, Ohio — Farmers in 20 Ohio counties of the Lake Erie watershed will be able to walk into a county federal conservation agency office today and apply for grants paying $57 per acre to plant winter crops to keep fertilizer from washing into the rivers.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and U.S Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, announced the $2 million emergency fund Tuesday at a news conference near the Maumee River at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in East Toledo.
They said the money will make a dent in the flow of fertilizer and manure that is feeding the late-summer algae blooms that threaten Toledo’s water supply. It was an algae bloom that shut down Toledo’s water supply Aug. 2.
Both Mr. Brown and Miss Kaptur stressed the $2 million grant is just a portion of what needs to be accomplished to end the dangerous flow of phosphorous into Lake Erie.
The $2 million will be spread over some 30,000 acres in 20 counties, Mr. Brown said. Mr. Brown and Miss Kaptur are trying to pass a related $20 million conservation program for Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Mr. Brown said he helped to establish a program in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide up to $1.2 billion for farmers to implement conservation measures, including those that could reduce runoff into Lake Erie.
Farmers are going to be paid to plant cover crops like clovers, alfalfa, rye, wild radish, wheat, oats, other crops, to hold back nutrients so they don’t leach out, Miss Kaptur said.
Terry Cosby, conservationist for the state Natural Resources Conservation Service, said growing winter crops makes the ground absorb fertilizer and manure better than when they are spread on hard ground. He attributed the growing algae problem to climate change.
The Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade.