Despite USDA’s best efforts, including more than $46 million spent since 2009 on water quality improvements to Lake Erie’s western basin, half a million residents of Toledo, Ohio found themselves without potable water nearly a month ago.
The drinking water problem has since been fixed, but runoff continues to be a problem. USDA is now investing $3 million additional dollars into Ohio to curb runoff from farms and other sources into Lake Erie. Suggested practices for farmers there aren’t much different from Iowa; conservation measures like no-till planting and cover crops.
For Defiance County Ohio farmer Joe Nester, the difference cover crops made on his ground was almost immediate.
“I was amazed at how fast the soil quality changed with those cover crops. And I think what really happens there is when we farm we farm for four and a half months a year and we feed that soil biology four and a half months. Then we take the food away and say, ‘Hold your breath, we`ll be back next May’. But with cover crops you continually feed that for sometimes over ten months. And it makes a big difference. You can just see the continued improvement in that soil quality.”
Both Ohio and Iowa have nutrient reduction strategies on the books. Currently, Arkansas and Tennessee are the only Mississippi River Basin states without one.