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Farmers increasingly joining Ohio's program to fight toxic slime, protect water supply

A sign reading "Spring Run Conservation Area Wetland Project" sits in front of a green space.
H2Ohio's Spring Run Conservation Area Wetland Project.

Farmers in Ohio are increasingly backing a program aimed at protecting Lake Erie and other wetlands from toxic algae blooms.

The program, H2Ohio, was launched by Gov. Mike DeWine's administration five years ago, after harmful algae blooms started to threaten drinking water supplies, hamper tourism, and raise concern about harm to the state's economy.

These blooms are primarily fed by fertilizer from agricultural land running off into waterways. When the DeWine administration launched H2Ohio, it was the state's first large scale program aimed at preventing phosphorus runoff.

Now the administration is celebrating the program making progress, with a 32% increase in enrolled acres of farmland. H2Ohio reported more than 1.8 million acres are enrolled in the program.

When looking at a recent state re-enrollment, 25% of farmers involved were newly enrolled, according to Brian Baldridge, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“As you're driving down the road, realizing that one out of two acres are one out of two fields that you drive by," Baldridge said. "So one out of two — we're really close to that — are going to be enrolled and participating in H2Ohio.”

According to H2Ohio, the organization encourages best practices for farmers including reducing phosphorus runoff and working with each producer’s Soil and Water Conservation District.

Farmers enrolled work to operate at their highest efficiency while improving water quality in the long term.

The program, H2Ohio, is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA.

“The ag community 100% stands behind and cares about water quality, and we're part of that solution, along with our partners at Ohio EPA and Ohio DNR. And for me, it's exciting to see agencies working together," Baldridge said.

Shay Frank was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. Before working at WYSO, Shay worked as the Arts Writer for the Blade Newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to working at the paper, she worked as a freelancer for WYSO for three years and served as the vice president of the Toledo News Guild. Now located back in the Dayton area, Shay is thrilled to be working with the team at WYSO and reporting for her hometown community.