The State Department of Natural Resources has offered funds to Medina County farmers to better control nutrient runoff into Lake Erie.
Medina County Soil and Water Conservation District Director Jeff Van Loon said the state will reimburse farmers who use cover crops and controlled drainage structures on their fields to reduce runoff.
Van Loon said the state redirected funds to farmers in the Rocky River and Black River watersheds in response to the Toledo water crisis.
Almost four weeks ago, more than 400,000 people in northwest Ohio were advised to not use drinking water because of algae toxins contaminating it.
Van Loon said nutrient runoff from farms greatly contributes to the algae bloom in Lake Erie.
“The more farmers from here to Indiana that put on cover crops, the more we can start making a dent in the runoff that goes into Lake Erie,” he said. “If each person does the responsible thing, it will help reduce some of the algae problem.”
Van Loon said he was notified two weeks ago the state will reimburse $25 an acre up to 50 acres for farmers in the Lake Erie watershed who choose to use cover crops.
Farmers spread the additional crop on their fields in the fall and don’t usually harvest them in the spring, he said. The cover crops most often used to reduce runoff and erosion are ryegrass, cereal rye, oats or crimson clover. He said they also improve soil health and act as a weed suppressant.
“We’re scratching the surface and just getting started with this,” Van Loon said. “In the future, I think we’ll see more farmers using cover crop.”
The state also is reimbursing farmers who purchase a controlled drainage structure, which allows water to back up in drainage tiles that farmers use in their fields, thus reducing the amount of nutrient runoff. The structures cost about $1,500 and farmers in Medina County can apply to be reimbursed for just under 100 percent of the cost.
Van Loon said the district will have a public seminar about the drainage structures this winter and will contact 90 farmers in Medina County who would potentially be interested.
The deadline for farmers to fill out an application at the Medina Soil and Water Conservation District Office, 6090 Wedgewood Road, for the cover crop reimbursement is Oct. 15. The deadline for the drainage structure reimbursement is March 15.
Van Loon said the reimbursements could become an annual program if the algae problem in Lake Erie continues.
“As long as Lake Erie is having issues, I would suspect there will be opportunities for this kind of funding for farmers in the Lake Erie watershed,” he said.
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