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

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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.

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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. 

Resource for Lake Erie Water Quality Seminar Attendees

If you have attended one of the Lake Erie Water Basin seminars jointly hosted by the Ohio Farmers Union and the Ohio Environmental Council, you’ll find below a link to The Lake Erie LaMP. This is the online material referred to by the OEC’s Joe Logan during his presentation.

The Lake Erie LaMP

[VIDEO] Joe Logan interviewed on state of fracking in Ohio

OFU & other Ohio-based food & environmental interest groups ask Portman for sound farm, food and environmental policies in Super Committee

(Columbus, OH)—The Ohio Farmers Union, Association of Second Harvest Food Banks, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, and Ohio Environmental Council are teaming up to urge bold changes to federal agriculture policy.

Their goal is to reform the Federal Farm Bill with a fiscally sound plan to:

  • Grow America’s agricultural production.
  • Sustain the basic nutritional needs of the millions of Americans who continue to struggle to put food on the table during the Great Recession.
  • Nurture America’s emerging sector of organic and sustainable agriculture producers.
  • Conserve America’s precious soil and water resources.

The U.S. Farm Bill is an outgrowth of the 1930s Dust Bowl and Great Depression. The Farm Bill originally was designed to accomplish three goals:

[Read more...]

VIDEO: Ohio Environmental Council Presentation to Farmers Union Members on Fracking

This video was taken at a September meeting sponsored by the Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga Counties Farmers Union. Joe Logan of the Ohio Environmental Council – and himself an Ohio Farmers Union member – discussed what hyraulic fracturing is, explained the Utica and Marcellus Shale natural gas play and outlined many of the environmental issues revolving around “fracking” for natural gas.