Policy Update: Protecting GPS, Trespassing Concerns, Court takes landowners side

Buckeye Farm News

Farmers call on FCC to protect GPS

Ohio Farm Bureau has supported a resolution introduced by Ohio Rep. Bob Peterson, R- Sabina, that calls on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider an order granting the broadband network provider

LightSquared conditional authority to construct cellular base stations that may interfere with global positioning systems used by farmers.

“We use this technology for farm planning, field mapping, soil sampling, tractor guidance, crop scouting, variable rate applications and yield mapping,” said Neall Weber, a Franklin County Farm Bureau member in testimony to lawmakers.

“GPS allows us to work during low visibility field conditions such as rain, dust, fog and darkness. More precise application of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and better control of the dispersion of those chemicals are possible through precision agriculture, thus reducing expenses, producing a higher yield and creating a more environmentally friendly farm.”

Weber said he believes that high-speed broadband services have great potential to bring opportunity to rural Ohioans, but that opportunity should not come at the expense of losing GPS.

Protection for trespassers raises concerns

OFBF weighed in on proposed legislation that would protect trespassers from liability if they enter a property to “beautify” it. OFBF strongly opposes any law that would make trespassing more difficult to prosecute or could take away the private property rights of individuals.

At a recent committee hearing, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s (OFBF) Director of State Policy Beth Vanderkooi testified to the issues and concerns OFBF sees with this piece of legislation and made several suggestions related to modifications of the bill.

Although the intent of the bill – to keep foreclosed or abandoned properties from drawing down the value of other nearby properties – is well intentioned, it raises several concerns for farmers.

“Generally, we think that it is problematic to permit trespass other than in instances of emergency, human health and safety, etc.,” she said. “Beautification of an area is not a sufficient reason to ignore private property rights and responsibilities. We are not unsympathetic to the unique problems that abandoned properties, particularly those in urban areas, pose to a community. However, we do not see this bill, as proposed, as an effective solutionto that larger problem.”

While the bill creates a set of extremely broad new civil and criminal protections for trespassers, the law provides no similar immunities for property owners, she said.

Supreme Court sides with landowners

The Ohio Supreme Court recently sided with a group of landowners who suffered damaging flooding after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources increased the size of a spillway at Grand Lake St. Marys.

The state was ordered to compensate landowners near the Grand Lake St. Marys spillway for the taking of their property. Ohio Farm Bureau participated in the case by filing an amicus brief supporting the landowners’ claims and closely monitoring the proceedings along with the attorneys representing the landowners.

After the spillway was increased from 39 feet to 500 feet, landowners began experiencing repetitive flooding that was more severe, frequent and damaging than before the spillway was enlarged. As flooding continued, the landowners’ ability to use the property for agriculture or any other means became almost impossible. Despite landowner attempts to work with ODNR for compensation, eminent domain proceedings were never initiated.

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