News Feature | August 20, 2014

Farmers Fear Reg Crackdown After Algae Crisis

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

farm

The threat of toxic algae shook up Toledo this month, mobilizing the National Guard and subjecting locals to a water ban.

But farmers are worried for a different reason.

"Area farmers are nervously watching lawmakers, concerned there might be strict regulations in the wake of the crisis," ABC 6 reported

The farm lobby sprung into action after the Toledo emergency, trying to fend off a regulatory crackdown. Phosphorous from crop fertilizer is a major cause of algae on Lake Erie. 

 "Following the water crisis, the Ohio Farm Bureau, which represents 60,000 farmers across the state, went on the offensive," NPR reported. Other agriculture groups sounded off, as well.

“What we do not want to see from government regulators is a knee-jerk reaction,” said Ken Nobis, president of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, to the Detroit Free Press

Farmers know they have a role in the algae issue, according to Ohio Farm Bureau official Joe Cornely. "They recognize that agriculture is part of what's challenging our water right now," he said, per ABC 6.

Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, took responsibility for the impact farming has on water. "The lion’s share of the phosphorous following out of the Maumee River is from agricultural sources," he said in a piece published by IdeaStream.  

Cornely emphasized the scale of the algae challenge. “I don’t think anybody likes to be blamed for difficult situations. Certainly farmers recognize that they have a role to play in solving these problems. It’s in the news because of Lake Erie but it’s a challenge across the state and it’s a challenge across the nation," he said on IdeaStream

Some farmers say they are already trying to do their part. 

"Delaware farmer Brett Davis said farmers have been working hard to eliminate runoff for years. He pointed to measures he takes on his 3,900 acre corn and soybean farm, including planting buffer zones around streams to filter runoff," he said. 

Davis said farmers also avoid tilling soil to help ensure it stays in place, according to the piece. 

"He thought the problem had been solved," the report said.

For more on policy and politics, check out Water Online's Regulations & Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "a pretty morning farm," scott1346 © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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