By Nancy Allen
While the water in Grand Lake St. Marys and the surrounding area is often cloudy, one thing is clear -- there currently is an outpouring of incentives available to implement best management practices that enhance the water quality in local watersheds.
The Coldwater and Marion Young Farmers organizations and the Mercer County Farm Bureau will hold a workshop entitled Cashing in on Conservation at 8 p.m. Monday at the Maria Stein American Legion Post. Sandwiches and other refreshments will be provided.
According to Doug Foxx, director of the Ohio Farm Bureau for Mercer, Auglaize, Allen and Shelby counties, the workshop will focus mainly on the state, federal and local cash incentives available for installing grass-covered filter strips, but cash incentives for other best management practices also will be discussed. The strips are planted along creeks and streams to help reduce the amount of nutrients that run off.
Foxx said the workshop is designed to help answer questions producers may have about the various incentives available and the procedures for obtaining them.
Foxx, who helped organize a similar meeting some months ago, said he hopes to attract about 50 people and sign many of them up to install filter strips. "We are trying to reach a larger group," Foxx said. "We are trying to promote it to as many people as possible."
Representatives from the Mercer County Farm Service Agency will be available to help producers schedule appointments to complete the necessary paperwork to sign up. People who sign up for filter strips will receive a sign that reads "Grand Lake Watershed Project Partner" that they can display on their land.
The Ohio Farm Bureau has become active in recent months encouraging local producers to take a proactive approach to improving water quality in the Grand Lake St. Marys and Wabash River watersheds, which cover most of the county.
Foxx said the workshop is all about farmers being proactive.
"Farm Bureau feels strongly it's important to promote all of the available programs for farmers to be proactive and to take action that will do things for the environment and limit future environmental regulations," Foxx said "We also want to highlight those farmers doing good best management practices and encourage others to do the same."
Speakers during the workshop will include:
´ Representatives from the Mercer County FSA office, which administers the funding for many federal conservation programs.
´ A representative from the Mercer County Pheasants Forever organization, who will talk about additional local cash incentives available for filter strips from Pheasants Forever, the Lake Improvement Association, the Wabash Conservancy District and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
´ Bart Homan, a farmer in the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed, who will discuss his experience with installing filter strips on his farmland.
´ Kevin Elder, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Livestock Environmental Permitting Program.
Foxx, who also will speak, said he feels the various groups are finally coming together.
"The feeling I'm getting in talking with the various groups involved is that we are all on the same page in terms of trying to do something positive to improve the water quality," Foxx said. "There are other issues such as septic tanks and geese manure, but we're focusing on what farmers can do. There's other people who can work on the other parts."