Tag Archives: Ohio

Setting the Course for Improved Water Quality: Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana Sign Groundbreaking Agreement to Protect Water and Support Farmers

Nestled on the north bank of the Ohio River, Cincinnati is a stone’s throw from the bluegrass of Kentucky and Indiana’s horizon of corn and soybean. This month, the city served as the perfect backdrop for representatives from all three states to sign a historic agreement that will set the tone for the future of water quality across the region.

Ohio River

The groundbreaking agreement launches interstate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin, a program aimed to reduce the release of excess nutrients running off of farm fields into the network of waterways leading into the Ohio River, the largest tributary of the Mississippi River. The project, led by Electric Power Research Institute with assistance from American Farmland Trust, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission, Hunton & Williams LLP, Kieser & Associates, LLC, and the University of California at Santa Barbara, marks the first time three states have come together to develop or implement an interstate trading program where all states operate under the same rules and a water quality credit generated in one state can be applied in another.

What is Water Quality Trading?

The goal of water quality trading is to improve the health of water sources, in this case the Ohio River and its tributaries, by reducing the excess nutrients leaving cities, factories and farms. It is an innovative market-based approach to reduce the release of excess nutrients from non-point sources – such as farm fields – into waterways. Water quality trading is:

  • Completely voluntary;
  • A source of revenue for farmers who can make further reductions in nutrients through planned conservation practices; and
  • A cost-effective alternative for regulated utilities, wastewater treatment plants and industries to meet environmental regulations by buying nutrient reduction credits from farmers.
A field tour of conservation practices on Schroer Farm in Patriot, Ind., showed possible credit-generation practices in action.

A field tour of conservation practices on Schroer Farm in Patriot, Ind., showed possible credit-generation practices in action.

By offering a financial incentive for farmers in the Ohio River Basin to implement conservation practices while at the same time improving water quality and saving money, water quality trading is a win-win for all involved. (Though geared toward similar AFT work in the Chesapeake Bay, our video “Nutrient Trading in Maryland” helps to highlight the pilot program now being established in the Ohio River Basin.)

A Voice for Farmers. A Vision for the Future

American Farmland Trust’s role in the project is to ensure that the water quality trading program is developed in a way that allows for full participation of farmers. Not only will these practices improve the health of the entire river basin, but they will help keep farmers on the land and actively farming by adding a new source of income to their operations – the sale of nutrient reduction credit to utility companies, wastewater treatment plants and other regulated point sources.

The plan will serve as the basis for the three states to implement pilot trades beginning in 2012 through 2015. Although some states have adopted trading policies or rules to govern trading within their jurisdictions, this is the first time that several states have come together to develop or implement an interstate trading program where all states operate under the same rules and a water quality

Representatives from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio sign the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Plan

Representatives from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio sign the Ohio River Basin Water Quality Trading Plan credit generated in one state can be applied in another.

After three years of hard work, we’re just getting started. We plan to have the first pilot trades in place before the end of 2012 with the remainder implemented in 2013-2014. The water quality pilot trades will take place in up to 16 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and are expected to engage at least three power plants and up to 30 farms implementing conservation practices on up to 20,000 acres. Reduction of nutrients running from farm fields into waterways is expected to total approximately 45,000 pounds of nitrogen and 15,000 pounds of phosphorus annually.

At full-scale, the project could include up to eight states in the Ohio River Basin and would potentially create credit markets for 46 power plants, thousands of wastewater facilities and other industries, and approximately 230,000 farmers. There is much work left ahead in order to get there, but with the signatures transcribed on a balmy August day in Cincinnati, we have taken a critical giant leap in the right direction.


About the Author: Ann Sorensen, Ph.D. is Director of Research at American Farmland Trust. She currently sits on the EPA’s Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee.

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Congratulations Champaign County Farmers Market, Winner: Small Category

This is one in a series of posts highlighting the four winners of our summer long America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest.

Farmers often have a personal connection with their local public markets. Whether it’s the interaction with neighbors-turned-customers, or the added boost in revenue, regional markets offer a unique place for food producers to sell their goods. For market president Lonny LeFever, the Champaign County Farmers Market in Urbana, Ohio, is more than just a welcome location to sell his produce. It’s a reminder of what’s really important in life.

The market is nestled in the historic section of Urbana. Held every Saturday from May to October, the Champaign County Farmers Market is a vendor-operated market in the truest sense. Every board of director member must be an active vendor, and the five-year plan calls for adding a second day to the market’s schedule, eventually using a permanent structure to hold a market five days a week.

But for now, customers have a wide assortment of produce and hand-crafted goods to purchase. The first market was held in 1998 and was relatively unorganized, with most vendors selling corn and tomatoes. “I didn’t plan on becoming president,” LeFever recalls, ”but my mind was made up that we needed a good farmers market since we lived in an agricultural community.”

In 2008, the board of directors for the market decided to create a five-year plan. They started a “buy local, eat local” branding campaign, and managed to attract and retain about 28 vendors. LeFever says vendors take pride in their products, and the community and local government shows a great deal of support to their local market.

The market tries to cater to the underprivileged residents in the county by accepting EBT Tokens and WIC. “We serve the whole community, not just the people that have the money to do it,” LeFever says. “We keep prices competitive to local stores.” The market also helps boost outside business. Visitors will drive into town, fill up on gas, eat downtown and purchase delicious food from the many family farmers.

“We are located in an area where some people struggle and many people are just trying to survive,” he says. “The unemployment rate is terrible. Bringing EBT and the WIC program into our market, it enabled us to grow our business, and people who were left out before can come to the market and purchase good food.”

Winning a top award in America’s Favorite Farmers Market means quite a lot to LeFever. “It made me feel good,” he says. “I worked very hard to get it to this point, but I never thought we’d get this.” Since winning, the community is alive with support for their local market.

LeFever spent much of his early life in Champaign County, so he is very familiar with the agricultural nature of the region. But at 16, when he graduated from high school, he moved away from home to try to make a life for himself away from his small hometown. A diagnosis of liver cancer brought him back home years later, and he says having cancer made him realize what’s really important.

“We’re all given challenges in life,” he says. “You can either lie down and let them run over you, or you can say no, I’m not going to let that happen—I’m going to live.” Now at the age of 58, he’s been diagnosed with cancer four times, but each time he’s dug deeper to survive. Farming and the Champaign County market has certainly kept him busy, and helped him live a simpler, more focused life.
Perhaps it’s the positive and welcoming atmosphere of the market that provided some extra strength during some hard times for LeFever. People come to the market, local restaurants bring hot coffee or ice tea, and customers end up sticking around to visit with their neighbors.

Vendors at the Champaign County Farmers Market are like a community. “If you are a bit late, you’ll have a fellow vendor helping you set up,” LeFever says. “The whole goal is to provide local, quality food. We try to educate people about where their food comes from and explain why our products last longer and have better nutrition. We stay very involved with our community and always try to make sure the customer comes first.”

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