Since 2011, Ohio’s leading corn, soybean and wheat checkoff organizations have invested nearly $3.5 million dollars in research and education to address the water quality challenges faced by farmers and all Ohioans. That investment continues as the Ohio Corn Marketing Program (OCMP), Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program (OSGMP) and Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) have recently approved a fourth year of program funding.
“Water quality has been and will continue to be one of our top priorities,” said Patrick Knouff, OSC chairman and grain farmer from Shelby County. “This issue is complex and requires a comprehensive approach to find solutions. And make no mistake, our organizations are working to find real answers and develop practical actions that can help mitigate runoff. It’s an investment in the future of Ohio agriculture and we expect a return. This is what we’re good at.”
With algae problems in Grand Lake St. Mary fresh on their minds and the growing problem of algae in Lake Erie, the farmer leaders of all three checkoff organizations put their heads together in late 2011 and made the strategic decision to partner and begin investing in research. As more was learned, a variety of educational programs for farmers were added to the portfolio.
Thanks to this early leadership, the On Field Ohio research project was awarded a $1 million match from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013. Led by Dr. Elizabeth Dayton at The Ohio State University, this program is monitoring runoff at the field level and will help identify best management practices for farmers.
In August 2014, the organizations’ strategic direction shifted again when Toledo shut off water to 500,000 of its residents.
“We knew we needed to do more than talk to researchers and farmers. Now, we must talk to our neighbors about the importance of water quality,” said John Linder, OCMP chairman and Morrow County grain farmer. “People had questions and they wanted answers. In many cases, they were asking the same questions farmers were asking. Speaking to large groups and media isn’t typically in the job description of a farmer, but we can’t remain silent. This is too important.”
The organizations worked to identify opportunities for farmers from around the state to answer questions and tell their story. They provided information about the ongoing research and educational programs funded by the three checkoff organizations and helped make connections with researchers. That work continues as more farmers speak to local groups.
“We’re proud of the work done so far, but we’re not finished,” said John Hoffman, OSGMP chairman and Pickaway County grain farmer. “The recent nitrate issue in Columbus highlights the need to stay fully engaged. Ohio farmers have and will continue to demonstrate their commitment by increasing conservation practices, investing in vital research and participating in educational programs. We do this because water quality matters to each and every one of us.”
Four years ago, Ohio was not the most talked about state with regards to water quality. Now it arguably is. While the attention that water is getting in the Buckeye State has increased dramatically, Ohio’s corn, soybean and wheat farm organizations are staying on the course they started back in 2011.