Experts gathered Wednesday, looking out a decade or more with strategies to make sure farmers and communities keep waterways clean.
Northeast Indiana accounts for about 12 percent of the drainage basin for western Lake Erie.
250,000 football fields of green algae now cover Lake Erie, a result of warming temperatures and the compounding effects of fertilizer use in an effort to feed a growing global population.
“It’s taken decades to get Lake Erie where it is, and it’s going to take some time to change the course,” said Jordan Seger, with the Indiana Agriculture Department’s Soil Conservation division.
Seger was one of the key players at an Indiana Conservation Partnership meeting held at Matea Park near Leo.
The conference was held, in part, to talk about success stories in controlling farm run-off into area waterways like the St. Joseph River, which drains into the Maumee River on its way to Toledo and the Great Lakes.
According to Seger, phosphorus from farms is a big culprit in algae blooms, and he says that can be leftover from farming methods from days gone by.
“You could do everything right in the watershed but it’s going to take some time for that to correlate downstream and eventually into the lake,” Seger said.
Ag officials insist farmers in this area are doing a lot on a volunteer basis to keep chemicals out of the water system.
But they say some financial incentives may be coming along soon to encourage those practices even more.
Congress is working on passage of a new Farm Bill, which figures to include incentives for best practices like cover crop, no till farming and nutrient management, prompting farmers to take environmental protection to another level.
“While we’re really focusing on the algae bloom, the farmers up here are really looking at the holistic picture of what’s going on, on the land, so that we’ve got good healthy soils, and we’ve got good clean drinking water because that’s what the public wants,” said Jane Hardisty with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
She took a lead role in the meeting.
The new farm bill could be approved later this year, but more likely passage would come in 2018.