Proposed bill has no sponsor, may be held in reserve if Lake Erie algae problems worsen
With Grand Lake St. Mary’s essentially dead, increasingly frequent and enlarged algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie and problems of varying degrees in other Ohio bodies of water, the Kasich Administration has passed proposed nutrient management legislation around to several environmental and agricultural organizations in the state.
Comments were requested to be submitted to the directors of the Ohio Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. The Ohio Farmers Union submitted comments from President Roger Wise.
“We understand that historically state government has been reluctant to intervene in the business operations of Ohio’s agricultural producers. We are however dealing on another historic level regarding water quality in Ohio when one considers the devastating algal blooms in the western basin of Lake Erie and the de facto death of Grand Lake St. Mary’s,” wrote Wise.
Wise pointed out that OFU has entered into a strategic partnership with the Ohio Environmental Council and is providing high quality farmer education sessions throughout northwest Ohio regarding nutrient management and agriculture’s place in the problems of the Lake Erie Watershed.
“On the other hand, I am compelled to point out that the water quality issues taken up by the proposed legislation are also the responsibility of the several other stakeholders including the City of Detroit, other Lake Erie area municipal water treatment districts, homeowners and lawn treatment professionals,” Wise wrote.
Wise also highlighted the importance of including manure from confined animal feeding operations within the Ohio Revised Code’s definition of fertilizer, stating that all sources of nutrients need to be managed.
Specific comments included in OFU’s submission:
- Support for legislative changes to law outlining the definition of fertilizer, but OFU believes the definition should be expanded to included manure from CAFOs.
- OFU urges ODA to increase the tonnage fee for fertilizer in order to cover the costs associated with any reforms in the state’s nutrient management education and regulatory operations.
- OFU supports language in the draft that would add fertilizer to the list of potential pollutants and states that critics are missing the point: Agricultural interests must understand that fertilizer can be a pollutant when mishandled or over-used.
- OFU supports proposed new authorities in ORC 1511.023.
- OFU supports the confidentiality protections afforded in ORC 1511.024.
It should be noted that the proposed legislation has no sponsor or bill number. A longtime Statehouse watcher of ag and environmental policy believes the legislation may sit on the shelf unless or until Lake Erie has another large and damaging algal bloom.
OFU will co-sponsor at least another two farmer education sessions over the next few months around the Lake Erie Watershed. The first two sessions in the northwestern corner of the state were well-attended and farmers heard from various ag and environmental experts on best practices like the “4 Rs” and how and why Lake Erie has experienced the problems with algae over the past few years.