Grain Organizations Question Recent Water Quality Study

The following can be attributed to Chad Kemp, President of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association and Adam Graham, President of the Ohio Soybean Association.

A recent study released by the University of Michigan has received significant attention. Ohio Corn & Wheat and the Ohio Soybean Association have major concerns about the unrealistic, one-size-fits-all approach of the study and the calls for additional regulations.

The study’s authors also charge that Ohio farmers will not voluntarily adopt practices necessary to protect water quality. We know farmers have already done so.

We are very disappointed that a representative of The Ohio State University (OSU), who co-authored the study, stated that the ‘most promising’ scenario was to reduce food grown in our state by eliminating farmland equal to the size of Dayton, hurting many small family farms. This is unrealistic, disregards the positive economic impact of grain farming in Ohio, and the need to grow food for a growing population.

The study relies on computer simulations that apply blanket practices over the watershed which is unrealistic and impractical. The study did not take into account current adoption of conservation practices or the fact that some practices work best in certain geographies. In order to achieve real success, farmers need to be able to customize their conservation choices to what fits best for their farm. Farming is not a one-size-fits-all practice.

With support from farmers, Ohio has adopted unprecedented mandatory policies, such as a fertilizer applicators’ licensing program, and is leading the country through cooperation among stakeholders and a proactive approach toward tackling this challenge.

A survey of Ohio grain farmers shows an 88 percent increase in farmers adopting grid sampling to test their soil and a 184 percent increase in the awareness and adoption of the 4Rs of nutrient management (right source, right rate, right time, right place) in only the past two years. Farmers currently implement multiple practices on their farms, yet the scenarios in the study only account for a few of the options available.

Through the hands-on work of Dr. Elizabeth Dayton, a researcher with OSU, we are gaining invaluable insights from real farms that take all practices into account. Her research shows that farmers are taking the right first step, and there is tremendous opportunity to make additional voluntary changes that will reduce runoff.

Sustainability is more than just environmental quality. It’s about finding the right balance of environment, economics and a reliable food supply. We need to take a measured approach to solving this challenge and not waste time and resources on studies that do not yield information that is applicable to real farms. It is also foolish to recommend policy changes without on-farm data.

We all share the same goal of reducing the impact of runoff on Lake Erie. Farmers have repeatedly shown through their actions and their funding priorities that they are focused on this issue. Research, modeling, and asking the right questions can lead to solutions, but it must be based on the changing conditions that challenge farmers every single day.

Ohio grain farmers will continue to champion reasonable and responsible solutions to preserve and improve water quality.