In areas where farm runoff travels to the waters of Lake
Erie, farmers and agricultural retailers are working together to improve water
The new 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, first
implemented in mid-March and administered by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association,
is designed to minimize nutrient loss from farm fields and create long-term
positive impacts on water quality. The program outlines a plan to help
participants in the Lake Erie Watershed implement the 4Rs of nutrient
stewardship: using the Right Source of Nutrients at the Right Rate and Right
Time in the Right Place.
Agricultural retailers have the opportunity to sign up for
the voluntary program, the requirements of which must be followed by all of the
retailers’ customers. For most, this means changing current practices to meet
the program guidelines.
Ohio farmers Terry McClure of Grover Hill and John Motter of
Jenera attended the program’s kickoff event. Both are members of the Ohio
Soybean Council, which has provided support to help get the new program up and
running, and each participated in piloting the program before it was unveiled.
“I’m impressed with the way our retailers have embraced the
4R campaign, and I believe it will be integral to the success of our farmers as
we work hard to better utilize our nutrients,” McClure said.
“We, in agriculture, do not need a new regulation or law to
do the right thing,” Motter said, noting that farmers are committed to helping
prevent runoff. “We need to understand the problem and the solution. I truly
believe that every farmer wants to do the right thing.”
The certification program outlines an initial three-year
plan for retailers or Nutrient Service Providers. Each year addresses a new
goal for providers, while also requiring the guidelines of the previous years.
Retailers will receive training to better help their
customers implement the 4Rs. Other requirements for providers include accounting
for all sources of nutrients applied, maintaining records of weather conditions
before and during nutrient application and including a field’s watershed
information in their report. This information and more will be used to continue
to decrease the fertilizer runoff rate and gauge how agriculture is affecting
water in Lake Erie.
As of mid-June, more than 50 agricultural retailers in the
Lake Erie Watershed have signed up to participate in the certification program.