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.