H2Ohio Update from ODPA & OACI

General News,

A message to Ohio Farmers from the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative and Ohio Dairy Producers Association:

Like you, we are carefully navigating through this crisis, and we are committed to working with you and supporting your farms and businesses as we look toward the future. The strength and resiliency of agriculture has never been more important than it is now.

The team at the Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) and Ohio Dairy Producers Association (ODPA) has continued to make progress on advancing farmer certification and water quality programming in Ohio. Following are a few relevant updates that may be of interest.

You are likely aware that the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) on April 7 issued a statement announcing potential cuts to the H2Ohio program. The funding reductions are called for in response to an order from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine for state agencies to make up to 20% in budget cuts due to costs of the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Our organizations have not received any further direction from ODA about when these cuts will be made and at what level. We anticipate more insight on this in the coming weeks as the state begins its reopening activities and state budget shortfalls are more fully understood.

While our OACI focus is statewide, we recognize that for farms in those counties eligible for funding, the ability to implement new best water quality practices on your farms is impacted by the intent of the state to supplement the costs of deploying these measures and by the challenges farmers across Ohio are facing in the pandemic. We also realize that for all farms in Ohio, efforts right now are on assuring survival through these stressful times and on responding to the volatility in the commodity markets.

We encourage you to continue your good work in protecting Ohio’s land, air and water quality. Each day, you are making important decisions that will protect our natural resources for future generations. We know that it is only through our collaborative efforts that we can achieve water quality improvements for Ohio.

Although the state’s participation is not clear, the OACI will forge onward. We have already come so far, and our initial meetings throughout the state were well attended and met with enthusiasm. We’ve made great strides in demonstrating through our actions how much the farm community can do to be part of Ohio’s water quality solution.

Getting Ohio’s farmers on the path to certification and then providing education and resources to assist farmers remain our focus. If you have not yet signed up for certification, you can still do so here. Our program is available to farmers across Ohio. In addition, OACI will continue to move forward on our assessment process to get a baseline of conservation practices and help tell the farmer story in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

OACI and ODPA also will continue to provide the most up to date information about H2Ohio, farmer certification, access to on-farm resources for implementing best practices and much more. When further details are available, our OACI team will work with ODA to identify how H2Ohio progresses and how farmers can continue to engage with them on water quality initiatives.

If you have questions, please reach out to ODPA at 614-890-1800 or Scott.Higgins@odpa.org

We wish you all the best during this planting season, and we share your commitment to preserving Ohio’s agriculture community as we look toward the future.