As new regulations are being considered to be imposed on agriculture, the agriculture community with waters going into Lake Erie is launching a proactive, responsible commitment aimed at the long-term improvement of Lake Erie’s water quality.

Harmful algal blooms in the Great Lake and other bodies of water in the area have been on the rise the past five years, leading to increased water treatment costs and negative impacts on fishing and tourism. Farmers have taken many actions to improve soil health and reduce fertilizer runoff, but nutrients leaving fields and entering streams and lakes continue to contribute to water quality problems.

A new 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program is encouraging agricultural retailers, service providers and other certified professionals in the Western Lake Erie Basin to adopt proven best practices through the 4Rs, which refers to using the Right Nutrient Source at the Right Rate and Right Time in the Right Place.

“This voluntary new program builds on the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles to provide a consistent, recognized standard for agricultural retailers in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan where surrounding waters drain into Lake Erie,” said Chris Henney, president and CEO of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association, which is the administrator of the program. “While individual growers aren’t included under the scope of the standard, it’s critical they work in concert with agricultural retailers to adopt best practices to realize long-term improvements.”

Those eligible for the program can learn specifics, hear from peers involved in its piloting, and sign up for certification at a launch event March 18 at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg, Ohio. The event’s afternoon session will feature invited special guests including: 

  • David Daniels, director, Ohio Department of Agriculture
  • Jim Zehringer, director, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Craig Butler, director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
  • Dan Wyant, director, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
  • Ted McKinney, Director, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program is governed and guided by the Nutrient Stewardship Committee, a diverse set of stakeholders from business, government, university and non-governmental sectors with a common goal of maintaining agricultural productivity while also improving the quality of Lake Erie and its contributing watersheds. The program is administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association. A soon-to-be launched website is 4Rcertified.org.