In 2010, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a series of advisories and warnings about a toxic algae bloom in Grand Lake St. Mary, Ohio’s largest inland lake.
In addition to Planktothrix, a type of algae identified in 2009, sampling confirmed an additional species, called Aphanizomenon gracile. Both are Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which are capable of producing a variety of toxins. The Ohio EPA advised people to avoid contact with lake water, including swimming and boating, refrain from consuming fish from the lake or using its water for irrigation, and to keep pets away from the water. As the summer progressed, over one dozen additional lakes, including Lake Erie, were added to the advisory.
The toxic algae problems at the state’s lakes are a good example of the environmental impacts of conventional agricultural practices. Manure and phosphorus fertilizers that wash off farm fields and into waterways are the most significant sources of the "blooms" of toxic algae. When these nutrients escape where they are meant to be (farm fields) and end up in the water, they provide an ideal medium for the growth of toxic algae.
Organic and sustainable growers use practices that protect soil, air, and water resources. Every crop needs phosphorus to thrive, but organic growers use natural forms of phosphorus, manure management practices, and planting patterns (such as cover crops) that reduce runoff from fields, protecting our precious water resources from becoming toxic cesspools.
In addition to providing educational workshops, organic certification services, and direct assistance and support to organic farmers and help all farmers reduce their use of chemicals, OEFFA also works to advocate for state and federal policy that helps provide support for sustainable agriculture, including:
- The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP): The cost-share program makes financial assistance available to help defray the costs of organic certification for producers and handlers of organic products.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program: Since 1988, SARE has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA): ATTRA provides information and other technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture.
- The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): The CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to undertake additional conservation activities on-farm, thus rewarding farmers for improving, maintaining, and managing conservation activities.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): The EQIP Organic Initiative is designed to assist producers with implementation of conservation practices.
These programs are vitally important to help more farmers transition to sustainable and organic production methods so that we can protect Ohio’s water for future generations.
Donate — OEFFA is working to ensure that our tax dollars support farmers who want to be good stewards. Make a donation now to help OEFFA fight for policies that support farmers wanting to transition to sustainable and organic production methods.
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