Ohio Senate Bill 150, the measure which would enact a fertilizer application licensing process in Ohio similar to the pesticide applicators’ program hit a wall in late 2013 due to so-called ‘affirmative defense’ language in the bill.
Bill sponsors Senate Ag Chairman Cliff Hite and Sen. Bob Peterson put the measure on hold until 2014 while issues among stakeholders over the affirmative defense language is sorted out.
Under language in a recent version of the bill, a farmer’s filing of a voluntary nutrient management plan for his or her farm would qualify as an affirmative defense in court should that farm be sued relative to civil nuisance actions. An affirmative defense means that legally certain facts are established on their face by the existence of a nutrient management plan.
At the last hearing of SB 150 in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Peterson noted that one of the amendments for that day – which was eventually agreed to – would strip the affirmative defense language from the bill. He added that it is his intention for a different version of that language to go back into the bill after negotiations with stakeholders.
At that third hearing proponent and opponent testimony was heard but the expected vote out of committee for SB 150 did not occur. The bill’s progress through the Senate is expected to continue in early 2014.
The Ohio Farmers Union joined every other major Ohio ag organization in testifying as a neutral party to the bill. OFU’s primary reason for not becoming an outright proponent is due to the bill’s failure to identify manure in the legal definitions of fertilizer or agricultural pollution.
“As a fertilizer bill, what is proposed is a good start. However, history and context remind us this legislation began as a nutrient management bill aimed at agriculture’s role in mitigating watershed quality problems across Ohio. What is being considered today does not address the entire scope of farming’s impact on Ohio’s lakes rivers and streams,” said Roger Wise, OFU president, in committee testimony.
“It was routinely stated at stakeholder meetings concerning this bill and in committee hearings that the point behind expanded state agencies’ authority and increased regulation is to “protect our lakes” and waters.” While the Ohio Farmers Union stands with legislators who express workable proposals to safeguard our water, we cannot outright support a bill that ignores every potential polluter, save row crop farmers, and purports to address best practices in nutrient management and leaves out the issue of manure,” Wise added.
Wise shared several potential ideas to improve the bill including, adding manure to the definitions of fertilizer and agricultural pollution in the Ohio Revised Code, a mandatory soil testing schedule in Ohio and the reinstatement of funding for the now defunct soil testing laboratory at Ohio State University.