by Keith Currie
President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
It’s been a busy year for managing water quality in our Great Lakes and surrounding waterways. This year saw above normal rain across many locations of the Great Lakes Basin resulting in above average water levels throughout the summer months in all the lakes. Lake Ontario set new record high water levels in June and July, the highest since records began in 1918. Unfortunately, significant spring and summer rainfall resulted in a larger than average algal bloom in the western basin of Lake Erie and several smaller lakes in the U.S. have also reported toxic algae issues.
Because of this, the reduction of phosphorus levels in the Great Lakes is a top priority for the Grow Ontario Together (GOT) coalition. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and our GOT partners have been working collaboratively to address ways and means of reducing the agricultural risk through the work on the draft Canada-Ontario Domestic Action Plan. The Action Plan’s goal is to achieve phosphorus reductions in Lake Erie from Canadian sources. Although farmers are only one part of a complex problem, we can provide solutions. Adoption of best management practices and 4R nutrient management guidelines are already making positive changes.
The Domestic Action Plan will be finalized in 2018. On the other side of the border, the draft U.S. Domestic Action Plan was released for public comment in August 2017.
Water quality is a top priority for farmers, and it always has been. OFA works with government and industry within the GOT collaborative working group to address issues like phosphorus management. OFA has been working with the GOT coalition, The Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative and the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative to ensure success.
This work has led to the development of new tools, practices and technologies to help farmers and municipalities reduce phosphorus and algal blooms in watersheds that feed Lake Erie.
As The Domestic Action Plan is being finalized in Canada and the U.S., Ontario farmers are already taking measures to reduce phosphorus entering the Great Lakes watershed. Canada and the U.S. have committed to a 40 percent reduction in the total phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 2025. This is an important goal and with the right measures put in place we can meet it, and Ontario farmers are committed to be part of the solution.