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All Ohio farmers can now join fight to save waterways from toxic slime. Here's how.

A map showing all 88 counties in Ohio that the H2Ohio program now serves.
Producers outside of Northwest Ohio can now enroll in the H2Ohio program.

Ohio is inviting farmers across the state to join in the effort to keep fertilizer from polluting waterways.

Nearly 10 years ago, harmful algae blooms made the city of Toledo's water temporarily undrinkable. The H2Ohio program was started in 2019 to protect water sources in northwest Ohio and prevent pollution in Lake Erie and surrounding wetlands.

Now, the program to manage runoff is enrolling farmers and agricultural producers statewide, growing from only 24 counties to all 88.

It’s an effort to create a collection of unified best practices in agriculture, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which aims to enroll 500,000 acres through May 30 on a first come, first serve basis.

Brian Baldridge, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the goal always was to expand statewide.

“Those best practices need to be implemented across the state. Whether it's a voluntary nutrient management plan or for any of those things we're looking at,” he said.

He said the H2Ohio's main effort is to monitor fertilizer levels in fields. Excess fertilizer can runoff into water sources and promote microorganism growth like harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie.

“At the end of the day, we put enough on, we have a bountiful crop, we harvest that, and that nutrient leaves with the crop when it's harvested, whether that's corn, beans, wheat, whatever that crop is. And we don't have extra amounts on and there's no chance of getting into waterways,” Baldridge said.

Farmers can enroll by contacting their local soil and water conservation district.

Shay Frank was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. Before working at WYSO, Shay worked as the Arts Writer for the Blade Newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to working at the paper, she worked as a freelancer for WYSO for three years and served as the vice president of the Toledo News Guild. Now located back in the Dayton area, Shay is thrilled to be working with the team at WYSO and reporting for her hometown community.