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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Economist to Address Reducing Nutrient Runoff in Ohio Waters

June 20, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Reducing nutrient runoff in Ohio waters may take more creative thinking than just instituting water conservation programs, according to an Ohio State University expert.

Farmers and producers may have to get by with fewer nutrients on crops in order to prevent more contamination to Ohio’s streams, rivers and lakes, said Brent Sohngen, an agricultural economist with Ohio State's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

“We can do better than what we’ve done,” he said. “We really haven’t gotten our money’s worth in terms of water quality with the current programs that we are using.

“It just may take different thinking if we really want to reduce the nutrient output on the landscape. That means we can’t just rely on trapping the nutrients using traditional conservation efforts, or changing the timing of our applications by holding manure in pits until the ground has thawed. Instead, we may just have to reduce the overall nutrient input.”

Sohngen, who also has an appointment with Ohio State University Extension and is a professor in Ohio State's Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, will talk about water quality and best management practices (BMPs) during a Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission forum on how phosphorous impacts Ohio's rivers, lakes and streams.

The presentation, “Nutrient BMPs: Voluntary Incentives, Regulation, Free Markets - What Will It Take to Keep Ohio's Waters Clean?” is July 6 at 10 a.m. at the MORPC offices, 111 Liberty St., Suite 100, in Columbus. The event is free and open to the public. 

The discussion focuses on how government programs to encourage voluntary practices to minimize nutrients in agricultural runoff are working and what else can be done. That includes watersheds that are implementing nutrient trading experiments to reduce runoff and possible new regulations.

“We need to push ourselves to try new things to be bolder than what we have been,” Sohngen said. “Reducing nutrients is much more costly than people realize.”

Sohngen holds a doctorate in natural resource and environmental economics from Yale University. He has interests in the area of natural resource and environmental economics, including valuing environmental change, modeling land use and land cover change, and the economics of non-point source pollution.

OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Tracy Turner
Brent Sohngen