Though February featured H2Ohio informational meetings with robust farmer attendance and venues bursting at maximum capacity, March and April brought about tremendous uncertainty with regard to the water-quality focused program as Ohio’s financial situation had to be re-evaluated due to the coronavirus. May is bringing a bit more clarity.
“Governor DeWine’s commitment to clean water in Ohio through his H2Ohio Initiative has remained a priority. Although the economic impact of COVID-19 was unforeseen and required a reevaluation of Ohio Department of Agriculture’s budget, ODA is pleased to be able to move forward with $50 million in funds — $30 million in H2Ohio funds plus $20 million primarily allotted from SB 299 — that will be available to farmers currently enrolled in H2Ohio programs,” said Dorothy Pelanda, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director. “This exceeds ODA’s expectations and positions the department to continue building valuable, conservation-based relationships with producers. Although details are yet to be worked out, we plan to move forward quickly to meet with the 2,000 farmers who have enrolled more than 1.1 million acres, in addition to working closely with the 14 SWCDs to help them achieve necessary staffing levels.”
The COVID-19 concerns did slow down the progress of H2Ohio, though.
“Although COVID-19 complications caused us to miss this growing season, we are confident that we will cover conservation crop year 21 in its entirety, which will begin this fall,” Pelanda said. “Funding for the following years remains uncertain at this time due to the uncertainty of the economy brought on by the pandemic, but we are optimistic.”
The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative is continuing its mission to bring together the diverse stakeholder groups to improve Ohio’s water quality through measurement, education and certification of Ohio’s farmers in the successful implementation of on-farm conservation and nutrient management practices through the H2Ohio Program. In doing this, OACI hopes to achieve meaningful improvement of water quality in Ohio, assure the viability of Ohio agriculture and build widespread participation of farmers. The funding levels moving forward are crucial to that goal.
“Ohio’s farm community is deeply grateful that Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda continue to make our water quality a priority, and we appreciate their commitment to retain $50 million in funding for the H2Ohio program,” OACI said in a statement. “The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative looks forward to continuing our work to advance statewide farmer certification programs, to support smart investments in on-farm conservation measures, and to provide Ohio’s farmers with the tools and resources they need to do their part to improve water quality in the state.”