Attacking algae

Ohio’s new crop nutrient law won’t save Lake Erie from turning green this summer, but it could make a difference in coming summers.
The law, sponsored by Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, should help reduce the phosphorus runoff from farms, into our waterways and eventually to Lake Erie.
Algae feeds off the phosphorus and, when combined with warm water, can turn toxic. Unsightly and unhealthy algae blooms have discouraged swimming, fishing, boating and tourism in several Ohio lakes, including Lake Erie, the past several years.
Hite’s law starts the attack on algae.
Farmers who apply fertilizer to 50 acres or more must attend state-developed certification courses. It also provides legal protections for farmers who develop state nutrient-management plans and keep accurate records.
The education could save farmers money if they learn they are using too much phosphorus, and cut back.
The law took months to vet and required considerable legislative craftsmanship on Hite’s part to get approved.
Through meetings held through the state last year, Hite invited farmers to the table, and convinced them to be part of the solution.
The discussion has also increased public awareness about other sources of phosphorus. Untreated sewage from municipalities, and even residential property owners who fertilize their lawns, add phosphorus to the waterways.
A compromise, which eliminated additional regulations on how manure is spread on fields, may have saved the law.
Hite saw his efforts come to fruition this week when House Bill 150 was signed by Gov. John Kasich.
While Hite has admitted the law isn’t a cure-all and knows more will need to be done to reduce phosphorus runoff, it is a significant development.
Years from now, when the algae blooms have disappeared, we will look back at House Bill 150 as the effort that got us on track to saving Lake Erie.



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