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Farmers, Environmental Groups Voice Support for H2Ohio Plan

A satellite photo of Lake Erie shows a toxic algea bloom
Observatory photo shows a toxic algea bloom in Lake Erie

Ohio farmers say they’re on board with the state’s plans to slow down agricultural runoff into Lake Erie. And they’re joining environmental activists and conservationists in embracing how Gov. Mik DeWine says he’ll spend $172 million in the newly created H2Ohio fund.

DeWine says farmers will get financial incentives from the state to start using science-based practices for applying fertilizer, building ditches and planting trees and shrubs. And unlike in previous efforts, the Ohio Farm Bureau and other major agricultural players approve. Scott Higgins is the CEO of the Ohio Dairy Producers Association.

“We don’t want this to be a flash in the pan project," Higgins says. "This is a long term commitment. This is something that we want to be permanent.”

He says setting aside state funds to help farmers makes a difference.

“By recognizing the needs to have the financial support to implement some of those best management practices, we now have a much better chance of even coming close to achieving the stated goal that the state of Ohio has set,” Higgins says.

Farmers had pushed back on an attempt to toughen regulations on agriculture from former Gov. John Kasich last year. The Ohio Environmental Council says it supports the H2Ohio program even though it’s voluntary because it invests in wetlands, requires commitment from farmers and establishes testing and audits to find out what will keep phosphorus out of the water.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.