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How your voice was heard as the state finalized new farm nutrient legislation
Compiled by staff
Senate Bill 150 complements extensive voluntary efforts by farmers to keep fertilizer from escaping fields and getting into lakes and waterways.
Working through Ohio Farm Bureau, farmers were actively engaged in the multi-year process of drafting, writing and revising the law. The bill, the first of its kind in the nation, was first passed by the Senate. The House recently passed its version, which the Senate is expected to approve. It will then go to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The final bill meets the policy goals set by Farm Bureau members, which stated that a fertilizer applicator certification program created by the state should include an educational component, be economically feasible and be a part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce all sources of nutrients.
Another part of the law provides farmers with an option to employ an affirmative defense in lawsuits related to fertilizer application. This will be an incentive for farmers to create and use nutrient management plans, an action encouraged by Farm Bureau policy.
Farm Bureau agrees with a provision in the bill that allows quick action against proven bad actors. And the organization supports record keeping requirements that are in the public’s interest without invading farmers’ privacy.
“We had some serious concerns about early versions of the bill,” said Jack Fisher, Ohio Farm Bureau’s executive vice president. “Our members were very active, very vocal. They let the state agencies and lawmakers know what tools farmers need. And they pushed to avoid unintended consequences and to assure that the law would be administered in a proper way.”
The mandatory requirements of the law will add to the impressive list of voluntary actions already being undertaken by farmers, including the large number of farmers who are receiving training in the 4R nutrient reduction strategy that emphasizes correct source, rate, timing and placement of fertilizer. Farmers have also adopted helpful practices and technologies including cover crops, variable rate applications and controlled drainage structures.
Ohio Farm Bureau also is leading the Healthy Water Ohio initiative, a coalition of agriculture, conservation, business, university and water user groups that are working to create a comprehensive strategy for the state’s water resources.
“There’s still a lot to be done in terms of meeting everyone’s expectations regarding Ohio’s water, but this new law will help,” Fisher said. “Farmers are committed to accepting responsibility and acting responsibly.”
**Following the House passage of S.B. 150, Ohio Farm Bureau praised the work of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Senate joint-sponsors Cliff Hite and Bob Peterson, House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Dave Hall and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.