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After Toledo Water Ban, Ohio Farmers Respond

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 4:22 PM

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Lake Erie algae growth, by flickr.com's Ohio Sea Grant.

Virtually any reporting on the causes of Toledo's drinking water targets farming as a primary suspect. With headlines such as "Farming at Root" of the water crisis…or "Wake Up Call for Farmers" you might expect farmers to lie low. But some are just fine going in front of microphones. Here's some of what ideastream's Sarah Jane Tribble found.

"The lion’s share of the phosphorous following out of the Maumee River is from agricultural sources,” says Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, a group that lobbies on behalf of small-scale farmers.  He has no argument with those who say phosphorous from crop fertilizer and from manure produced on livestock farms along the river basin are the big contributors to the water threat. 

He’s also been quoted saying, “we can’t put the rest of our fellow citizens at risk.”

Joe Cornely, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau, which represents 60,000 farmers across the state, says the farm community saw this coming years ago.  He adds that his group supports efforts to encourage “best practices” to keep fertilizer from draining into the basin.

The Bureau focuses on the 4 “R"s.  That’s using the right fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. 

“I don’t think anybody likes to be blamed for difficult situations,” Cornely says. “Certainly farmers recognize that they have a role to play in solving these problems. It’s in the news because of Lake Erie but it’s a challenge across the state and it’s a challenge across the nation”

Cornely says among the questions on Ohio farmers minds is why the algae problem has been so severe in recent years after long periods of decrease.  He says there’s a lot more to know and to do.

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