You may recall that earlier this year three state agencies floated a proposed bill to address agriculture’s perceived part in combating the contamination of Ohio’s freshwater resources with too much phosphorous and other materials that lead to toxic algal blooms in areas like the western basin of Lake Erie.
The draft legislative language was created by the Ohio Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA after Gov. John Kasich requested them to form the Directors’ Agricultural Nutrients and Water Quality Working Group. Previously this year Director Jim Zehringer (ODNR), Director Scott Nally (OEPA) and Director David Daniels (ODA) circulated the second version of their proposed bill for comment from various environmental and agricultural stakeholders around the state. You may read OFU President Roger Wise’s response to that request here.
Stakeholders were put on notice regarding impending legislative action once again earlier this month. In an informal hearing in the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chairman Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) and members heard proponent testimony from the three directors in anticipation of what Hite said would be formal bills in the House and Senate regarding farming nutrient management in the fall.
[UPDATE – June 30 S.B. 150 has been introduced by Senators Cliff Hite and Bob Peterson.]
“Over the course of the past year and into the foreseeable future, agricultural nutrient management will be the number one priority for the (Soil and Water Resources) Division, and one of the top priorities of the department,” Zerhinger said at the June 11 hearing.
Zerhinger acknowledged that there is nothing the state or farmers can do that will immediately solve the problem of the harmful Lake Erie algal blooms. He also noted that, “It is important to note that the loading of dissolved phosphorous into Lake Erie’s tributaries from agricultural sources is not an intentional act by farmers in the watershed.”