TOLEDO, OH —U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) announced $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Brown, the first Ohioan on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, also outlined additional federal resources available to improve water quality.
“We can and must stop runoff before it starts,” Brown said. “But we all have to work together to tackle this threat and this new federal funding is such a critical component. But these federal funds are just the beginning – we need to utilize every available resource and innovation to reduce the risk for toxic growth, preserve the local environment, and protect our water supply.”
Brown and Kaptur joined Terry Cosby, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist, to outline how the new funding – part of NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – provides resources for producers to implement conservation practices. These include preventive measures to reduce phosphorus runoff and prevent pollution in the Lake Erie Watershed.
“Last week my staff and I went out to meet with farmers in the 20 Ohio counties in the western Lake Erie watershed,” Cosby said. “They told us they understand how the recent events may impact them and are ready and willing to do what it takes to stop phosphorus run-off, starting right now with cover crops. We created this opportunity using EQIP to make it easier for them to get cover on their fields, and urge them to follow up with us to create a complete nutrient management plan.”
Bill Myers, president of Lucas County Farm Bureau, discussed how he has utilized EQIP on his 2,000-acre, Oregon-area farm. Brown is encouraging applicants to find more information here and apply for funds at www.nrcs.usda.gov/getstarted.
In addition to the emergency funds, Brown discussed the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – which he helped establish in the 2014 Farm Bill – that would provide up to $1.2 billion nationwide for farmers to implement conservation measures, including those that could reduce runoff into Lake Erie. The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative, a partnership among Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, has advanced to the next stage of consideration for a $20 million federal award – $13 million of which would go to Ohio.
Brown also announced plans to reintroduce the Clean Water Affordability Act, which would direct additional funding to communities in Ohio to eliminate combined sewer overflows, which are a contributing factor in harmful algal blooms. Brown first introduced this legislation with former Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) in 2008 and worked with local officials across Ohio to fine-tune the bill. Brown will reintroduce the bill this fall.