Agriculture

Environmentalists and farmers shouldn’t be at odds on Lake Erie

(As submitted by Mike Ferner, Coordinator Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie) Responding to your article, “Farmer asks County not to declare Lake Erie ‘impaired,’”  in the BG Independent News, it is important to say that “simple farmers,” as Mr. Drewes defines himself, and people who want to clean up Lake Erie are not enemies and in fact have much in common. I grew up and worked on farms in Richfield Twp., in western Lucas County, spending many summers hoeing corn, soy beans and sugar beets and baling hay.  In those days factory farming was unheard of and I know from my own experience that traditional farmers try to be good stewards of the land and water. Up until 20-some years ago, many more family farms supported the rural economy and grocery stores had plenty of milk, eggs, hamburger and pork chops without CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) even being imagined.   Today, the Ohio Farmers Union, representing a dwindling number of “simple farmers,” is very opposed to the radically unsustainable form of agriculture represented by CAFOs.  This industrial form of food production is the exception to a long tradition of farming methods and history shows it’s not necessary. “Only” 146 CAFOs in the Western Lake Erie Watershed generate an amount of animal waste equal to the sewage output of Chicago and Los Angeles combined — some 700,000,000 gallons annually.  That does not include an unknown number of “one-under” operations that stay just below the number of animals that requires registration with the EPA. The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture estimates 80-85% of excess nutrients going into Lake Erie are from agriculture and there can be little doubt that most of it comes from CAFOs. So we are faced with a big problem that will only get worse if we ignore it. Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie supports the same kind of cleanup for Lake Erie that is ongoing with the Chesapeake Bay.  The U.S. EPA is overseeing an inventory of all pollution sources, setting the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) from all sources that the bay can absorb and remain relatively healthy and a mandatory action plan with deadlines and report cards.  This process can be monitored at Chesapeake Progress and an important study on the economic benefits of cleaning up the Bay can be found here. The Chesapeake Bay history is important for us to heed, if we want to protect Lake Erie with all its environmental and…


Wood Soil & Water Conservation District to meet

(As submitted by the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District) The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is holding the 67th Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center OARDC (4240 Range Line Rd. Custar) Saturday, September 10th  at 11:30 AM.  Tickets are available for $10 each. A buffet lunch in included and the election for two members to the district board of supervisors is open 11:30 AM– 1:00 PM. Ron Snyder, NACD Soil Health Champion, and staff will present “Soil your Undies.” Don’t miss it! Please contact the district office at 419-354-5517 or wcswcd@woodswcd.com by August 26th to RSVP. The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is supervised by a board of five elected citizens and landowners of Wood County.  Each elected supervisor serves a three year term and volunteers their time in the interest of conservation for both the agricultural and urban communities throughout Wood County. Residents or landowners, firms and corporations that own land or occupy land in Wood County and are 18 years of age and older may vote for supervisor. A non-resident landowner, firm or corporation must provide an affidavit of eligibility, which includes designation of a voting representative, prior to casting a ballot. This year’s candidates for the Board of Supervisors are Dale H. Limes, and incumbents, Dennis Ferrell and Lee E.  Sundermeier. Please join us, too, at the district office (1616 E. Wooster St. Suite 32 Bowling Green, OH) for an Open House and to meet the candidates for the Wood SWCD board of supervisors on Thursday, September 1st 4:00-7:00 PM.   Enjoy  a hot dog and refreshments.  Talk with the candidates, current board members, and staff making decisions and promoting practices and programs to protect our local resources and keep Lake Erie clean. Request your absentee ballot Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or find the request form online at www.woodswcd.com.


Farmer asks county to not declare Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mark Drewes tried to convince the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday to not fall for claims by city folk that farmers don’t care about the region’s water. He asked that the commissioners not jump on board with other regional officials asking that Lake Erie be designated as “impaired.” The self-professed “simple farmer” sat down in front of the county commissioners and handed out his charts showing phosphorus runoff rates, county livestock populations and maps of extensive soil sampling on his farm. The water issue became a very public matter in 2014 when the algae rendered Toledo water undrinkable for a few days. But according to Drewes, who farms near Hoytville in the southwest corner of Wood County, the water issue had already been a hot topic for the agricultural community. “We’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “This problem is the No. 1 problem we face as farmers in Wood County.” But declaring the lake “impaired” will only make matters worse, the farmer said. “That is a very drastic measure,” said Drewes, who farms corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. He also works closely with large livestock operations, and serves on the Ohio Corn Growers Board. Drewes said he was troubled to see Toledo Councilman Mike Ferner ask the commissioners to help declare the lake as impaired, while implying that farmers don’t care about the water. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” he said. Drewes’ family has farmed the land for generations – and plans to continue for many more. So the water quality is important to them as well. “It’s something we think about every day,” he said. Both commissioners Joel Kuhlman and Craig LaHote asked Drewes how the “impaired” designation would hurt farmers – especially if they are already doing all they can to reduce algal blooms. If the lake is declared impaired, scientific studies will be conducted to determine where the phosphorus is originating. “We want to know where it’s coming from, so it can be addressed,” Kuhlman said. LaHote said that agriculture could benefit if studies show farm phosphorus isn’t as much of the problem as suspected. But Drewes said was skeptical of any studies. “Impaired status will push agriculture to its breaking point. We are regulated beyond belief,” he said.  “Let’s figure this thing out before we attack it. Let’s not attack it, then figure it out.” But Kuhlman said…


Ohio’s cottage food rules focus of seminar, Sept. 26

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY Implications to recent changes in Ohio’s cottage food laws will be the topic of discussion at a seminar hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 from 4 – 5:30 p.m. at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK). Dennis Delong, R.S., food safety specialist, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), will discuss the new regulations and its relevance to local food producers. The new regulations primarily address the criteria and definitions for cottage food operations, labeling, sampling, food items allowed and prohibited.  Cottage food producers are prohibited from producing potentially hazardous foods.  They are allowed to produce the 20 items listed in the cottage food regulation. Ohio regularly ranks in the top 10 for most farmers markets in the nation, and Delong will also explain changes for such venues including what can and cannot be sold at farmers markets. These processing procedures will be explained within the NOCK – a kitchen-based setting that educates and advises entrepreneurs interested in starting a food business.  Food-related business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and those who are producing a product to sell at markets and/or other retail establishments are encouraged to attend. The cost is just $25/person or $20/person for group of two or more (pay online, or cash/check at the door) which includes great networking opportunities and light refreshments.  Advanced registration is preferred.  The NOCK/AIF is located at 13737 Middleton Pike (St. Rt. 582) in Bowling Green, Ohio. Visit ciftinnovation.org to register and pay online, or contact 419-535-6000, ext. 140 or rsvp@ciftinnovation.org.


Can Ohio farmers get in on craft beer market?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It took intense “hops sensory observations” – otherwise known as sitting around drinking beer – for some Ohio agriculture experts to raise a question. Why aren’t Ohio farmers raising hops to supply all the craft beer makers popping up around the state? “We got to thinking, can this be done in Ohio?” said Brad Bergefurd, a horticulture specialist with OSU Extension in Piketon. The answer is, yes, he told a crowded room at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast north of Bowling Green on Thursday. Truth is, hops used to be grown in Ohio a century ago. But three factors shut down the beer-making crop – prohibition, downy mildew and pesky aphids. The hops market in Washington and Oregon survived since those harvests were shipped overseas where alcohol was not banned. Those two states continue to grow the vast majority of hops used to make beer in the U.S. Bergefurd suggested that now may be the time for Ohio farmers to consider getting back in the hops business. “One-hundred years ago we grew it,” he said. “We can do it.” In fact, right on the ground of the agricultural incubator on Ohio 582, is a small quarter-acre hops yard. It is one of three scientific hops yards in Ohio, studying if farmers in this state could find a place in the beer trade. The U.S. brews more than 5 billion gallons of beer a year. Small craft breweries are a growing trend, with the Ohio Department of Commerce reporting more than 186 in this state alone. Those breweries  produce more than a million barrels of craft beer annually. “There is quite a demand,” Bergefurd said. “Hops is what makes the beer.” The other trend of using locally grown items, and publicizing those to customers, means Ohio brewers are looking for hops grown and raised in this region. “The brewers would like to have more of a local product,” Bergefurd said. “These guys and girls are investing millions in these breweries. They aren’t going away,” he said. While Ohio farmers have picked up the pace, they have some distance to go if they want to supply local breweries. In 2012, there were just three hops farmers in the state, Bergefurd said. That number has grown to more than 60 members in a guild, with just over 200 acres planted in hops. But in order…


Pipeline attempt to use eminent domain protested

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Eminent domain often allows pipeline companies to plant their lines where they wish. The only point left to dicker is the amount they have to pay landowners to cross their property. But the pipeline case being heard in all three common pleas courts in Wood County is different. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan is planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claims the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. “Our position is they absolutely do not,” said Andy Mayle, an attorney working with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. According to Thompson, a private pipeline company’s taking of land for its own gain violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights. Thompson and Mayle represent 16 families in Wood County who are contesting the eminent domain claims of the Texas-based pipeline company. The case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in the county because Kinder Morgan has sued so many landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the pipeline company did not explore alternative routes as suggested. The local families have asked that the pipeline company consider placing the line along road right-of-ways, to avoid going through farm fields or housing lots. The Wood County commissioners have also asked the company to consider routing the pipeline along highways to lessen the burden on landowners. But the pipeline company would not budge on its route. However, it appears the company is now reconsidering its previous reluctance to deviate from its proposed route. After last week’s court hearing, Mayle got a call from pipeline representatives saying that an engineer has now determined that the line could be rerouted to run along the perimeters of properties rather than through farmland or…


Families put up a fight against pipeline plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jerry and Elaine Bruns’ farmland near Pemberville has been in their family since the 1860s. They have no intention of giving a pipeline company permission to damage it – no matter how much money is offered. The Bruns are being joined by 14 other Wood County families who are standing up to Kinder Morgan pipeline company, which is planning to build a $500 million ethane pipeline from southeast Ohio to Canada, passing through their land on the way. On Thursday, the landowners listened in court as pipeline representatives said the residents were being greedy and were holding out for a better price. Not true, Jerry Bruns said. “We told them from the get-go. We don’t want the pipeline, no matter what the money.” This is clearly not about the money, he said. “This has been going on for two years.” On Monday, the families will be in court again, trying to convince the judge that eminent domain law does not give Kinder Morgan the right to bury a pipeline on their land. According to their attorney, a private pipeline company’s taking of land for its own gain violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights. The action filed on behalf of 15 families in eastern Wood County opposes the efforts for the Utopia pipeline intended to send ethane from southeastern Ohio to a Canadian plastics factory. Bruns said he and other families objected to the land surveys by the Texas-based pipeline company – to no avail. “They got a restraining order. We couldn’t even go on our own property,” he said. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River southwest of Waterville. The 12-inch line would travel through 21 miles of Wood County. The Kinder Morgan company has plans for construction of the line to start at the end of this year and continue through 2017. Because the line would be moving ethane, a byproduct of the shale fields, it is not subject to the same approval process as natural gas pipelines. But the pipeline would cause the same damage to his fields, according to Bruns, who said the Utopia map shows it running “the whole entire length of the farm,” south of Pemberville. “It’s basically going to damage the soil of the farm,” by compacting the soil, he…


Country kids school city folks at the fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   County fairs give city kids a chance to learn about farms and the livestock raised on them. The fairs also give country kids a chance to work on their patience when city folk ask some rather inane questions. In the beef barns, a lot of people meandering through mistake the steer for cows. That’s a real elementary lesson for farm kids, who know that cows are females and the beef barns have male steer and young calves. “It’s not a cow,” Rebekkah Schober, 12, of Walbridge, said with a hint of exasperation as she explained the difference. But most of the time she doesn’t bother to go into detail for people wandering through the barns. “I feel like that would be rude. Besides, they won’t remember that by tomorrow morning, so it would be a waste of time.” Some people also mistake the steer for big pets. “They’ll touch them without asking,” said Macey Fix, 17, of Gibsonburg. “They are sweet animals, but be careful around them. If it kicks someone, it would really hurt bad.” AnnMarie Nietz, 12, Walbridge, gets the same “cow” questions. “Only girls are cows,” she said as she tended to her steer. Then there’s the “do they bite” question, to which she sternly replies, “no.” Helping her was Amelia Leiser, 10, who said some city folk ask why her steer is so dirty. “He lays in his own poop, for pete’s sake,” she said. Amelia is pretty protective of her steer, and doesn’t let strangers touch him. “I don’t where your hand’s been,” she tells people who ask. In the next barns over are the swine, many of them sleeping soundly in the middle of the afternoon. These are not the cute little piglets of storybook lore, but hefty creatures weighing up to 300 pounds. Brady Ziegler, of Bloomdale, explained that he has to practice walking his pig to prepare for showing him at the fair. That is no easy feat considering the only aid he can use to keep the pig on the right path is a stick to tap it behind the ears. “Even a very well behaved pig can go bonkers,” said Brady’s dad, Matt Ziegler. Elsewhere in the swine barn, other kids were making their first acquaintance with swine. “They’ve never been on a farm,” said Nicole Sheeks, of Wayne, whose children were…


Gooden named to new post at Center for Innovative Food Technology

From Center for Innovative Food Technology Dave Beck, president and CEO, Center for Innovative Food Technology, announced Mike Gooden was hired as business development and supply chain analyst.  He is responsible for designing training programs and delivering assessments related to supply chains for food manufacturers. Gooden has more than 35 years of experience in logistics, productivity, operations, quality, regulatory, and continuous improvement with General Mills and Pillsbury. Throughout his career he has also served as a supply chain consultant, conducted hundreds of third party food safety audits, has experience in new plant startups, and is a member of the American Society for Quality. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at Middle Tennessee State University.


Once ordinary skills now extraordinary at the fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For more than 140 years at the Wood County Fair, people have been showing off their prowess at baking and sewing. The skills exhibited were once a way of life, a necessity. Now, they are uncommon –and draw “oooohs” and “aaaaahs” from those who have never stitched up a bodice or never baked up a rhubarb pie. Judy Arps and her daughter, Janeen Shipp, both of Haskins, were admiring the quilting entries Wednesday at the fair when asked if either of them bake or sew. Arps cracked a smile, and Shipp rolled her eyes. “We had to learn it out of necessity growing up,” said Arps, who learned to sew from her mom. “If I wanted more than one dress, I had to sew it.” Arps became so skilled that she sewed her prom dress and her wedding dress. She is now passing on those skills to her granddaughter. Arps also excels in the kitchen, specializing in baking bread and the secret family recipe for coffee cake. “She taught me how to can,” Shipp said. That was also a necessity when Arps was growing up. Shipp has carried on the tradition, canning jams, fruits, green beans, tomatoes, red beets and pickles. “If you can put it in a can, you can can it,” Shipp said, echoing her mom’s words to her. Cooking is a different issue, one that Arps admits she lets slide some days. “I can go get a sandwich faster than I can turn the oven on.” Denise Waterfield, of Grand Rapids, also learned her sewing skills at an early age – though not from her mom. “I have a picture of when I was 9 years old, sitting on the couch opening an embroidery kit for Christmas,” Waterfield said. She was hooked. “My grandmothers were seamstresses, knitters and milliners. I think it’s in the genes.” Waterfield walked through the display cases at the fair pointing out her handful of ribbons earned for embroidery, lace work, quilting, sewing a stuffed animal and a coin purse. The secret, she said, is patience. That’s something she knows a lot about, since during the school year Waterfield is a bus driver for Bowling Green City Schools. Betty Whitacre, of Bowling Green, said she’s too short on patience to handquilt, but she loves quilting by machine. “My mom used to quilt at the church…


Dry summer taking toll on crops, lawns, tempers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is parched after getting half its normal summer rainfall this year – leaving yards brown, corn stalks scrawny, and some farmers short on patience. Every once in awhile, the dark clouds build and rain starts hitting the thirsty earth, but most hints of precipitation have turned into a tease. Rainfall for May, June and July in Bowling Green added up to 5.64 inches, according to records kept at the Bowling Green Wastewater Treatment Plant. That is about half of the average 10.7 inches seen here during those three months. The stunted crops and crunchy lawns are the most obvious victims, affecting local farmers and grass mowing businesses. But the hot dry summer has been good for others, like ODOT’s road construction schedule, local swimming pool attendance, and ball seasons that haven’t been disrupted by rain. Bowling Green’s water supply has not been adversely affected since the Maumee River watershed covers a huge area, according to Brian O’Connell, director of utilities for the city. “Even under severe drought conditions, there’s a lot of water that drains into the Maumee River,” O’Connell said. However, the rainfall on individual farm fields has left corn and soybean crops hurting, according to Jonanthan Haines, of the Farm Service Agency. The spring started out strong, he said. “We had the rainfall in April and May. We were actually a little too wet.” Farmers were itching to get their crops in the fields as summer got near. “They had a window to plant at the end of May,” Haines said. There were a handful of dry days, followed by forecasts for spring showers. “Everybody raced to plant.” But the forecast was wrong. “The rain never came,” Haines said. “The spigot was turned off after that.” Some spots in the county have fared a bit better than others, with the driest fields in the southwest corner, he said. The corn may have finally shot upward and started tasseling – but that is somewhat deceptive. It doesn’t mean a healthy crop. “The corn is chest high and tasseling out,” but it should be much higher by this time of the summer, Haines said. Haines is predicting “substantial less” bushels of corn at harvest time this year. Soybeans may be a little more drought resistant since they have more time to make up for the stunted growth and can benefit…


Conservation grants offered to local farmers

Farmers in the watersheds of the Portage and Toussaint rivers are eligible for funds to reduce the amount of nutrients that migrate from their fields to nearby waterways. The grant is through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is being administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Wood and Ottawa counties. TMACOG will document costs to farmers and monitor the grants. Applications are being accepted now through Aug. 15 only at Wood County and Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Farms must be within either the Portage or Toussaint River watershed which also includes parts of Sandusky and Hancock counties. The grants will reimburse farmers for three agricultural best practices: variable rate technology with cover crops, water control structures, and blind inlet filters. Variable rate technology (VRT) measures nutrients present in the soil and then delivers only the amount of fertilizer necessary for optimum yield. Under the terms of the grant, farmers will be reimbursed for planting winter cover crops with VRT technology. Farmers will test soil in a three-acre grid or less. The information is mapped in a GIS system and linked to the application of fertilizer. Farmers will be reimbursed for both the cost of the fertilizer and the cost of the cover crop. Water control structures are essentially control valves that are placed on a drainage tile main line. By adjusting the stopper boards – essentially raising a dam in a drainage tile – ground water can be held back in the field in the root zone where plants can utilize the nutrients that may have otherwise been flushed out. Blind inlets are a filter system that is another way of controlling surface runoff into drainage tile. With a blind inlet, the runoff passes through engineered drainage soil which facilitates the processing of nutrients in the water.  


Arps Dairy milks its story to secure its place in the market

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Lambert Vandermade milks cows for a living. He bottles milk for hobby. And that means he also has to tell a story. Vandermade, president of Arps Dairy, told his story of how a Netherlands-born dairyman came to own a long-standing Ohio business and what he envisions for the future at the July Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum Thursday morning.  The event was hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation. Vandermade came to Northwest Ohio with his family from the Netherlands 16 years ago as they searched for a way to grow their family dairy business. In the Netherlands, he said, land is a scarce resource. The country is a third the size of Ohio. In the Netherlands, the family had 60 cows and raised 200 sows.  They did the work themselves with no employees. The European quota system, now ended, meant they were assured of making a small amount of money from the milk. The pigs provided more chance for profit. When they came to Ohio, after investigating other areas of the country, they started with 600 cows, “created 10 jobs” and were introduced to a federally regulated system so complex, Vandermade said, “I still understand about half of it.” The Vandermades now milk 1,400, cows on two farms in Defiance County, one devoted to maintaining older cows. “Dairy is a very complicated market,” Vandermade said. “The market has shrunk down to a very few, very large companies.” That puts a particular burden on the milk processor. Large retailers use milk as a loss leader. Low milk prices lure shoppers in the door. But that makes it hard for small companies like Arps to compete, he said. Vandermade’s frustration with the marketplace led him to wonder: “Can we lay a better link between the farmer and the consumer? The consumer is becoming further removed from the farmer and were not doing anything to bridge that gap.” With that in mind, Vandermade approached the Arps Dairy, which still maintained that link. Nothing came of those initial talks, so the Vandermades pursued another project, building the spread for older cows, about five years old, as a way of extending their productive life. It is good for the business, which pays $1,800 to raise a cow to the point she starts producing milk, and good for the animal. Then with that project…


Making migrant workers feel at home in Wood County

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The workers who come into Wood County to pick crops may be here for just a few weeks, but La Conexion de Wood County wants them to know they have a friend while they are here. On Sunday La Conexion and the First Presbyterian Church of Bowling Green welcomed migrant workers at an event held at a camp in Bloomdale. They didn’t go empty handed. The Brown Bag Food Project came with boxes of food to tide them over until their first paycheck. The Wood County District Public Library staff was on hand with books and activities for the children. The Cocoon Shelter was there to offer its support. The event, now in its third year, was initiated by the church as a way of working with La Conexion, which works out of the downtown Bowling Green Church. Beatriz Maya, the managing director of La Conexicion, said that about 200 workers “at most” are now in Wood County. The numbers of migrants arriving has been declining as agriculture has mechanized and the mix of crops grown locally has changed. Now the demand is for people to pick cucumbers. Those jobs last for about six weeks, then the workers will be off to Michigan to pick apples or to Georgia or Florida to harvest other crops. As the number of crops in a region diminishes it becomes less worthwhile for workers to travel at their own expense to a place to harvest. Though their numbers are down they still have needs, she said, and La Conexion wants to help meet them either directly or by connecting them with other service groups. Maya said she has been trying to help facilitate the workers signing up for Medicaid. Though a federal program, the health program for children and the poor is administered by states, so whenever the workers move to new fields, they must give up Medicaid coverage in one state and sign up again in a new state. That means more detailed paperwork, submitting documents and waiting periods, that in Wood County can take longer than a family’s residency in the county. Last summer, she said, a child was hurt while playing, and had to go to the emergency room, but the family had no medical coverage. “We’re working with Jobs and Family Services to see if we can change the scheduling a little bit,” Maya…


Drought conditions may restrict growth of algae in Lake Erie

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Dry weather is keeping the algae blooms in Lake Erie at bay. The lack of rainfall means little run off into the Maumee River leading into the lake. The runoff is the main source of phosphorus that feeds the algae growth. The phosphorus in the runoff largely comes from the fertilizer that farmers use on their fields. Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a prediction for a less severe algae bloom in the western Lake Erie Basin. On hand at the announcement were Bowling Green State University researchers Michael McKay, director of the BGSU marine program, and George Bullerjahn, professor of biological sciences. That prediction, they said during an interview on Friday, is good as it stands, but is subject to change. If it starts pouring, Bullerjahn said, the algae could be back. “We’re relying on luck and nature,” McKay said. Whether an algae bloom develops into a toxic algae bloom like the one that closed down the Toledo region’s water system in 2014 depends on many factors – wind, heat and the presence of nitrogen, another key ingredient in fertilizer. The extent of that algae bloom, Bullerjahn said, was moderate, but it had high levels of the toxin microcystin. That crisis sent people in the region scrambling for water and scientists, officials and politicians scrambling for solutions. However, “we can’t predict how toxic a bloom will be,” Bullerjahn said. There’s no correlation between how green a bloom is and how toxic it is. Earlier this year a toxic bloom occurred in the Maumee River near Defiance, forcing that city to resort to its back up reservoir for water. As a result of the 2014 crisis, a goal was set last year to reduce phosphorus in the lake by 40 percent. “There’s growing agreement this will bring blooms to a manageable level,” Bullerjahn said. He said scientists are optimistic the goal can be reached. Certainly there will be some hardship, he said, “but nobody’s going crazy.” It will take time. “Don’t expect this to be reached soon,” McKay said. McKay said a first step is to identify “hot spots” where a large amount of phosphorus is being released. In those areas farmers can apply the fertilizer underneath the surface of the field mitigating the run off. Also, a return to the old practice of planting winter cover crops such as rye would…