Three Years of Excellence; An Initiative to Be Replicated

In March 2014, the agriculture community launched a proactive, responsible commitment aimed at the long-term improvement of Lake Erie’s water quality. More than three years later, the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program continues to provide a standard for agricultural retailers in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana while inspiring other states to implement programs of their own.

The voluntary certification program, now in its fourth year, is a concentrated effort by the agriculture industry to significantly reduce and prevent applied nutrients from running off fields, which has contributed to water quality issues in Lake Erie and other waterways across Ohio.

The 4R program certifies nutrient service providers – those who apply or make nutrient recommendations – are following business practices in accordance with 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles – which refers to using the Right Source of Nutrients at the Right Rate and Right Time in the Right Place. Program participants must go through an annual, independent, third-party audit and demonstrate they not only understand 4R principles, but also follow them.

Early Adopters Continue to Exceed Program Standards

From October 2014 to early 2015, a handful of early-adopters were certified in the 4R Program. These facilities, listed below, have now earned the honor of year three certification, completing the initial audit cycle that includes 45 cumulative requirements.

  • The Andersons, Inc. – Fremont, OH
  • Crop Production Services – Attica, OH
  • Legacy Farmers Cooperative – Custar, OH
  • Morral Companies, LLC – Caledonia, OH
  • Sunrise Cooperative – Attica, OH
  • Sunrise Cooperative – Ballville, OH
  • Sunrise Cooperative – Crestline, OH
  • Sunrise Cooperative – Norwalk, OH
  • Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. – Smithville, OH

“The Nutrient Stewardship Council is proud of the efforts all our certified facilities have taken to improve water quality across the tri-state area,” said Andrew Allman, director of the Nutrient Stewardship Council. “We’re especially proud of those early adopters who saw the value in the program and work to ensure their facilities continue to meet the program’s requirements.”

Expanding Across Ohio and Beyond

In January 2017, the 4R Program was launched to the full state of Ohio, offering all Ohio-based agricultural retailers and nutrient service providers the opportunity to participate in efforts to improve the quality of Ohio’s waterways. Today, approximately 2.8 million acres and nearly 6,000 grower customers are serviced by the 45 facilities in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio that have earned 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification.

The industry-driven, science-based framework of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has gained the attention of other states that are looking to implement similar programs for their retailers. To date, the Canadian province of Ontario and two U.S. states, have expressed interest in adopting and adapting the 4R Program for their regions.

Nutrient Stewardship Council

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program is governed and guided by the Nutrient Stewardship Council, 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.

In October 2017, the NSC announced a new chairman, Mark Sunderman of Legacy Farmers Cooperative, succeeding Carrie Vollmer-Sanders of The Nature Conservancy. The NSC also elected Larry Antosch of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation as vice chairman and Vollmer-Sanders as secretary. Other NSC directors include:

  • Mindy Bankey, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Matt Lane, Ohio Department of Agriculture
  • Steve Emery, Crop Production Services
  • Sally Flis, The Fertilizer Institute
  • Greg LaBarge, The Ohio State University
  • John Motter, Ohio Soybean Council
  • Joe Nester, Nester Ag Services
  • Mark Smith, Ohio Natural Resource Conservation Service

A special thanks to The Mosaic Company Foundation for its support of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program.