ELDORADO—The Ohio House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee held a hearing at Growing Acres Farm, focused primarily on fertilizer use and crops, on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Three organizations – the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, UES, Inc., and the Ohio State University Extension in Darke County – testified before the panel.
First up to testify was Chris Henney, the president of the Ohio AgriBusiness. He spoke to the committee about the associations new nutrient stewardship certification program that was started due to the water quality issue plaguing the state.
“The whole Ag community started thinking ‘What can we do differently? What more can we do?’,” he said.
Their program certifies agribusiness based on 41 criteria that the business is audited on. Items such as soil test, do they have a crop advisor on staff, and the usage of good practices are a few items that check checked.
If a facility is not meeting the standard, they do have an opportunity to write a corrective active plan.
Thus far, there have been 17 certified facilities in Ohio. The program expanding and there are now 50 facilities in the certification process, with an estimated 1 million acres of land impacted.
It is also a tri-state program, and businesses in Michigan and Indiana have also begun the auditing process as well.
Melanie Tomczak, a representative from UES, Inc., addressed the panel regarding her division’s newest technology for testing waters around Ohio.
She said that phosphorous is the main cause of blooms that are causing water issues around the state and that farmers have been very proactive in trying to remedy the situation.
One of the biggest issues in Toledo was early detection and an early warning system. Thus, Tomczak introduced the Silver Hawk, a water testing kit that is currently in the field-testing process.
The kit can be in buoy form and placed along the waters, allowing them to pinpoint problem areas using wireless communication.
It also allows for quick testing of water. In the current system, testing water samples can take up to 72 hours. With Silver Hawk, UES is able to get results in an hour. As the technology develops, they hope to lower that turnaround time to 10 minutes.
“It’s just amazing how much education plays a part in what we are doing and the advances that are taking place in the education front,” said Representative Tony Burkley, Vice Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. “I look forward to what agriculture and your industry have for the future.”
The last testimony of the day came from Ohio State University Extension in Darke County.
There mission is to “improve water quality by helping lessen growers’ use of phosphorus and nitrogen by keeping more of it on the field and increase crop yields and boost farm profits.”
They hope to help farmers adapt to best management practices through in-depth research.
“Water quality issues didn’t occur over night and we aren’t going to find a silver bullet to solve it overnight,” said the representative.
They believe in continually researching the issue at hand though, and continually looking at ideas and evaluate and determine which direction to go in education program.
Their long term goal is to clean up the water by reducing phosphorous in the waterways and using adaptive practices to improve the water quality.
“It was a great privilege of mine to bring the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee to Preble County,” said Representative Jeff Rezabek. “Agriculture is the top industry in the state and is extremely vital to the 43rd House District.”
Following the summer hearings, the committee will issue a report of its findings, testimony, and recommendations that will be available to the public and will guide future legislative action in these areas.
“We heard great testimony regarding best practices in nutrient management,” said Burkley. “This information will be helpful as we continue to work with the agricultural community to modernize Ohio’s number one industry.”
This was the fourth of five summer hearings the committee will be holding throughout the state. The final committee hearing will be held Wednesday, Sept. 9 in Bidwell.
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH