Ohio Legislative Update

The Ohio Farmers Union is providing testimony on two bills this week:

Sub. H.B. 490 – the large, catch-all bill which began life as part of Gov. John Kasich’s Mid Biennium Review package of legislation meant to make budget adjustments. The bill covers both the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture and Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources areas of governmental responsibility. OFU has taken an “interested-party” position, due to the large number of subjects covered in the bill. OFU has told legislators it is supportive of tightened regulations on saline injection – or frack water disposal – wells. The bill also creates a path toward ODNR being able to provide first responders information about the chemicals being used at an oil or gas drilling site in the event of an accident. That language is rather nebulous, however, leaving it to ODNR management to implement. This issue will bear watching if 490 moves on through the Senate and to the governor’s desk.

OFU suggested in testimony by President Joe Logan some potential additions to the parts of the bill regarding nutrient management. Working with the Ohio Environmental Council, OFU is seeking amendments which would allow the state to aggregate and analyze data from nutrient management and manure management plans to get watershed-wide views of manure and chemical fertilizer sales/production/use.

Read Joe Logan’s testimony from November 12, 2014 on Sub. H.B. 490.

S.B. 296 – is sponsored by State Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, and is supported by Ohio Farmers Union. A main provision of the bill provides that retail filling station operators are not responsible for mistakes customers make in putting the wrong fuel in their vehicles. (So long as the pumps are clearly marked and the station is in compliance with all other laws and regulations.) Ohio’s ethanol producers have urged farmers to support this because some filling station operators have refused to provide E85 or other fuel choices because they say customers may not pay attention while fueling, unintentionally pump the wrong fuel into their vehicle and then sue the station for damages. Ohio Farmers Union testimony was provided by OFU Treasurer Roger Wise.

Read Roger Wise’s testimony submitted ‘as written’ on November 12, 2014 on S.B. 296.

Logan appointed to U.S. EPA Advisory Committee

Joe Logan speaking at the Ohio Farmers Union 2014 Farm Bill Implementation Forum. Photo: Ron Sylvester

Joe Logan speaking at the Ohio Farmers Union 2014 Farm Bill Implementation Forum. Photo: Ron Sylvester

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan has been appointed to a national committee that provides advice on environmental, agricultural and rural development issues to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Logan will serve on the Farm, Ranch and Rural Communities Committee.

According to a letter sent Logan by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the committee “provides advice, information and recommendations to the Administrator on a broad range of environmental issues and policies …”

The committee’s members represent a broad range of interests including academia, farmers, ag industry interest groups and state and local government representatives.

“This year’s water quality issues in Lake Erie validate the importance of issues that touch on both the agricultural industry and the environment,” Logan said.

“I’m pleased to represent Ohio’s farmers on this important committee. I believe Administrator McCarthy takes seriously the advice and real-world experience brought to the EPA’s decision-making process by the committee,” Logan said.

“I intend to take the same pragmatic approach to my work on the committee that I take as a leader in the Ohio Farmers Union. Regulation should be targeted, not one-size-fits-all and based in science and real-world data,” Logan said.

Logan is a dairy farmer from Kinsman, Ohio who has built a second career serving agricultural and environmental interests. He has been a leader in the Ohio Farmers Union for several years. This is his second stint as president and he has also served as the group’s legislative director. He also worked on agricultural and water quality issues for several years at the Ohio Environmental Council.

News Release: HB 490 Could Help Untangle Debate on Where Erie’s Harmful Algal Blooms Come From

Ohio Farmers Union Calls for Targeted State Action on Algal Blooms

In wake of Toledo problems and recent forum, family farm group feels a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not be best for farmers on environment.

 

ofu_200COLUMBUS – Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan said today that Ohio agriculture can and should be a part of fixing Lake Erie’s harmful algal blooms (HAB) and outlined several policy positions OFU may take to state legislators later this year and into the next General Assembly.

“The information we have to work with today tells us that the there is a problem in the Lake Erie watershed, but not the specific sources or locations. There’s a hole in the data; we need to fill that hole,” Logan said.

House Agriculture Chairman Dave Hall told Hannah News last week that his committee will continue to pursue H.B. 490 in the lame duck session of the legislature after the elections. The bill in its current form is supported by OFU due to water quality and safety measures related to the handling of wastewater from Ohio’s growing fracking industry.

The bill also includes some ag provisions including moving the state’s agricultural pollution abatement program – which focuses on livestock farming – from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources to the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture. Logan said H.B. 490 could be an important part of Ohio’s effort to control nutrient runoff and the algal blooms they can feed.

OFU will ask Hall’s committee for an amendment to H.B. 490 that would do two things. First, for ODA to establish procedures for all operators of confined animal feeding operations or their third party distribution contractors to report the amount of manure delivered to other persons and the location to which it was delivered. This is to address a so-called ‘manure loophole’ in state regulations where manure distribution from a regulated location is outsourced, stretching the chain of accountability to the breaking point.

[Read more…]

Presentations and Clips from OFU’s Lake Erie Solutions Forum

Lake-Erie-Forum640I’m working on a story and our own video coverage from what turned out to be an excellent set of presentations from Dr. Jeff Reutter, Ohio Sea Grant; Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension; Todd Hesterman, farmer and NW Ohio Coordinator of Conservation in Action and Adam Rissien from the Ohio Environmental Council. For now, find below the PowerPoint presentations from our presenters and links to media coverage of the event. Thanks to all who attended and to our presenters!

OFU Farmers Seeking Solutions Forum – Presentations

OFU Farmers Seeking Solutions Forum – Media Coverage

13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

Reminder: OFU Forum on Water Quality in Toledo September 22

post400pngThe Ohio Farmers Union will bring together scientists and agricultural experts in late September in a forum on seeking solutions for the annual algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie.

The forum will be held Sept. 22, 1 p.m., at Forrester’s on the River, Boers-Boyer Way, 26 Main St., Toledo. The event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are appreciated to Linda Borton, Ohio Farmers Union, at lborton@ohfarmersunion.org.

OFU President Joe Logan said it’s important for farmers to acknowledge their part in Lake Erie’s woes, and that OFU is trying to help spread the word on innovative farm management practices that assure that farmers are doing their part to protect Ohio’s waters.

“Farms dominate the landscape in the western Lake Erie watershed and farmers use many tons of phosphorus and nitrogen to grow crops – so people naturally look toward agriculture as a contributor to Lake Erie’s excess nutrient loads,” Logan said.

“Farmers always try to keep nutrients on their land, but the increasing intensity of rain storms make doing so more challenging. Farmers may need to embrace new management practices and new technology,” he added.

OFU’s forum will include speakers:
•    Jeffrey M. Reutter, director, Ohio Sea Grant & F.T. Stone Laboratory
•    Todd Hesterman, NW Ohio coordinator, Conservation in Action
•    Gregory LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension
•    Adam Rissien, Ohio Environmental Council

Logan said OFU is committed to information on water quality and agriculture being “fact and science-based.” He also said that broad, regulatory programs may not be the silver bullet for solving Ohio’s water quality issues but “innovative agricultural practices, along with targeted state and federal regulations will be more likely to attain our goals.”

Logan hopes the forum will be a reasoned and productive discussion among farmers, scientists, urban interests and agency officials that can support their collective effort toward saving Lake Erie.

“We have a very serious problem threatening a crucially important state, national and international resource – it’s time for everyone to get on board and begin working together toward an effective solution.” Logan said.
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OFU Summer Update from Joe Logan and Linda Borton

At OFU’s recent summer picnic and full board meeting, I caught up with Executive Director Linda Borton and President Joe Logan to get a video update on how the organization is doing this year:

OFU President Joe Logan’s Letter to Gov. Kasich Asking for Veto on SB 310

Ohio Farmers Union President Joe Logan today released a letter he has emailed and posted to Gov. John Kasich regarding S.B. 310 which would freeze Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates.

Read the Letter

Learn More About This Issue

Photos from a Busy Day at Statehouse for Ohio Farmers Union

ofuinactionIn the photo above, State Sen. Robert Hagan talks to Ohio Farmers Union members at the Statehouse last Wednesday about the state of fracking regulation and his proposal to raise the state’s severance tax. Hagan’s proposal calls for a 7.5 percent “frack tax” which is still well below other gas and oil producing states such as Oklahoma and Texas. Gov. John Kasich’s most recent proposal would raise the severance tax on fracked oil and gas to 2.5 percent – and put a good portion of the revenue into a state income tax cut that would primarily benefit upper income earners.

BurkleyAbove, State Rep. Tony Burkley discusses state budget issues and S.B. 150 the nutrient management bill pending in the House Agriculture Committee. L-R: Burkley, at desk; Sue Culver; Fred Culver; Jeff Navarre and Joe Logan.

GreenAbove, OFU members with State Rep. Doug Green after a discussion of agricultural nutrient management. L-R: Keith Lenz; Diane Adams; Roger Wise; Green; Bill Pritchard.

hallofc

OFU President Joe Logan makes a point in the office of House Ag Committee Chairman Dave Hall. R-L: Logan; Mel Borton; Linda Borton; Sue Culver; Fred Culver.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio is working with Sen. Hagan on many issues related to fracking and severance taxes in Ohio.

State Rep. Nickie Antonio is working with Sen. Hagan on many issues related to fracking and severance taxes in Ohio. She and Hagan hosted OFU’s first meeting Wednesday.

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Above, OFU Vice President Bill Miller discusses manure management and loopholes in current state law affecting waste management in livestock farming with Spencer Gross. Gross is the legislative aide for State Rep. Timothy Derickson, Miller’s representative. OFU’s lobbying day this year coincided with a tremendously busy committee schedule for both houses of the state legislature as senators and members dealt with opening hearings on the governor’s Mid Biennium Review bill (MBR). The MBR comes in the second year of each biennial budget and is the opportunity to tweak the state budget. Additionally, both houses are currently working on the first state Capital Bill in four years.

All Photos by Ron Sylvester, Ohio Farmers Union

Lots of News Out of OFU’s 80th Convention

1conventionThe Ohio Farmers Union has a new president and rural concerns about the long-term effects of fracking and the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater continue to dominate policy discussions among its membership.

OFU held its 80th annual state convention this past weekend. With 110 delegates attending from the state’s county Farmers Union organizations and several additional non-voting members, the family-farmer and consumer oriented group had its largest convention in several years. Nearly 250 people packed the convention hall for remarks by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, right, speaks to OFU youth delegate Joe Schmitz of Darke County at the 80th OFU Convention.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, right, speaks to OFU youth delegate Joe Schmitz of Darke County at the 80th OFU Convention.

Brown will get the chance this week to vote once again on the beleaguered, two-year delayed Farm Bill. The U.S. House accepted political compromise last week and approved a final version of the bill. Pending Senate passage later this week, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the measure which will replace most direct payments to farmers with an enhanced system of crop insurance.

“There are several titles in the farm bill, all of them important to this state. You think about rural development, you think about conservation titles, you think about commodities in title one and what we’ve been able to do there, and obviously you think about the nutrition part and all that helps make our state better,” Brown said.

“I’m virtually certain we’ll pass it, and I am virtually certain the president of the United States will sign it,” Brown added.

[Read more…]

Nutrient Management Bill Clears Senate Committee

OFU’s Logan, Askins deliver family farmer group’s final testimony in Senate Ag

A several times amended Senate Bill 150, legislation that would require a nutrient application certification for many of Ohio’s farmers was unanimously approved by the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee earlier today.

The bill was previously stalled over the issue of whether or not so-called “affirmative defense” language would remain in the bill benefiting farmers who are in substantial compliance with voluntary nutrient management plans on their farms as defined in the bill. An affirmative defense is a legal term which means that legally certain facts are established on their face by the existence of a nutrient management plan. In an amendment to the bill offered today, Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Sabina, proposed putting affirmative defense language back into the bill. That amendment passed along with two other technical corrections unanimously.

Prior to the vote to pass the bill out of committee, Ohio Farmers Union Executive Committee member Joe Logan told the committee that OFU appreciates the steps being taken to address agriculture’s role in water quality issues, especially in the western basin of Lake Erie.
The exclusion of manure from a bill dealing with fertilizer is an oversight that undermines the overall objectives of the new regulatory regime Logan told the committee.

“If a broad, regulatory approach is indeed necessary to achieve the goals of environmental protection, The Ohio Farmers Union firmly believes that it must include all sources of agricultural nutrient loads, including livestock feeding operations, where nutrients from livestock manure are aggregated to extreme. Unless livestock manure is included in the regulatory certification program, we believe that the program is unlikely to achieve the environmental goals,” Logan said.

“The net result of such an outcome would be a needless and ineffective expansion of governmental regulation.”

OFU member Vickie Askins provided written testimony on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Stewardship Alliance, an interest group that tracks livestock factory farms and their environmental impacts.

“In light of the reduced use of commercial fertilizer, I believe manure has become a major contributor of excess phosphorous given the vast amount of waste produced by Ohio’s CAFOs,” Askins wrote to the committee. She pointed out what’s become known as the “manure loophole,” allowed under Ohio Department of Agriculture rules for manure management.

“The ODA manure loophole allows people with no training to spread massive amounts of manure anywhere, anytime and at any rate- with no oversight,” Askins wrote.

Placing the affirmative defense language back into the bill did get bill sponsors Peterson and Ag Chairman Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, the support of the Ohio Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau today testified as supporting the bill.