More than 250 agricultural retailers and stakeholders from the Ohio, Indiana and Michigan agriculture communities attended the launch of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program Tuesday in Perrysburg, OH. The voluntary program is geared toward the long-term improvement of Lake Erie’s water quality by applying the 4R principles.
The 4R approach – using the Right Nutrient Source at the Right Rate and Right Time in the Right Place – serves as the guideline for the new certification program, which will be administered in the tri-state area by the Ohio AgriBusiness Association on behalf of the Nutrient Stewardship Council.
“The program has several features that will make it very effective in reducing the problems with algae blooms in Lake Erie,” said Bill Stanley, assistant director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio and a member of the Nutrient Stewardship Advisory Committee. “Most important are a set of scientifically rigorous standards developed with industry and academic involvement, as well as independent, third-party audits to ensure that those standards are followed.”
Nearly 200 agricultural retailers, service providers and other certified professionals attended the morning session featuring a panel of pilot project participants discussing the various reasons why a voluntary program is important. Those interested were able to sign up for the certification program on-site.
“As ag retailers, we have to be proactive in finding ways to improve water quality, and the 4R certification is a tool that will pay off in a big way,” said John Oster, with Morral Companies, an ag retailer in Morral, OH. “We believe that by enacting this, we will become part of the solution, and we know we can fix our part and make things better.”
A press event was held during the afternoon session, consisting of two panels with retailers, farmers and public officials. Notable participants in the second panel included:
- David Daniels, Director, Ohio Department of Agriculture
- Jim Zehringer, Director, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
- Craig Butler, Director, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
- Jim Byrum, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association
- Beth Bechdol, President, Agribusiness Council of Indiana
“We shouldn’t do proactive stewardship because of the threat of regulation, but because it’s the right thing to do,” said Bechdol, who lives in the Lake Erie watershed on her family’s farm.
The first phase of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program will begin this summer.
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.