Excerpts from a Columbus Dispatch article by Spencer Hunt:
Ohio farmers are being warned that if they don’t take steps to reduce the manure and fertilizers that wash off their fields and pollute streams and lakes, government officials will order them to do it.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of 19 other agriculture-industry groups are delivering letters to farmers across the state, warning that voluntary measures are needed now.
Farm Bureau officials said farmers must work to reduce the phosphorus that feeds the toxic blue-green algae choking Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Marys, Buckeye Lake and other lakes statewide.“
If farmers don’t do this on their own, there will be federal and state laws and regulations that will "mandate how you farm,” the letter states.
State officials have been unwilling to place mandatory limits on farmers near the Maumee River and other areas that drain to Lake Erie. Researchers think the Lake Erie algae feast on dissolved phosphorus from farm fertilizers.
Toxic algae threaten the health of visitors and create “dead zones” where no aquatic species can survive.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources did impose limits and manure-management rules on farmers near Grand Lake St. Marys in western Ohio. Manure runoff from livestock farms have spurred toxic-algae warnings for swimmers at the lake since 2009.
“That was a very isolated situation,” said Karl Gebhardt, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources deputy director. “It got to a point where we had to take action fast.”