For nearly a decade, Ohio Farm Bureau members have been considering the impacts that regulations on water withdrawals from the Lake Erie basin would have on the region.
Those conversations came as the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between seven states and two Canadian provinces governing the use of water, was being advanced by lawmakers.
Gov. John Kasich recently signed legislation sponsored by Rep. Lynn Wachtmann that outlines state regulations on water withdrawals, which was the final implementing measure to the Compact.
The legislation was a victory for Farm Bureau members, who voted to adopt the following policy at the most recent annual meeting:
The Great Lakes are one of America’s most important natural public treasures. Together, the Great Lakes account for 90 percent of the United States’ surface fresh water resources. The Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces serve as stewards of this resource and have a shared duty to protect, conserve and manage these renewable but finite waters.
As a result we believe: The authority to control, protect, and conserve the Great Lakes from diversion lies with the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces; Water resources should be regulated at the state level, not the federal level, reducing the chance that water resources could be exploited by other states; and we should continue to monitor and actively participate in the implementation of the Great Lakes Compact to ensure that agricultural interests are represented and concerns addressed.
Because water is a critical resource for farmers, Farm Bureau members had been working to ensure that water was plentiful and available and that restrictions on withdrawals wouldn’t have unintended economic consequences.
OFBF Director of State Policy Beth Vanderkooi said most farmers in the Lake Erie basin, with the exception of large nurseries and specialty crop growers, likely do not use enough water to fall under the new state regulation.
However, Farm Bureau successfully supported a grandfather provision for agriculture, meaning that those who meet the threshold for water withdrawals would only be regulated for new or increased water use.
Ohio Farm Bureau had designated the legislation as a “Key Vote,” which the organization uses to assess lawmakers’ responsiveness to farmers. Larry Antosch, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of policy development and environmental policy, also recently told lawmakers that the bill ensures a safe, sustainable supply of water.
“Environmental stewardship is a priority for Ohio’s farmers, which is why we continue to work to adopt state laws and regulations that promote water quality and maintain access to Ohio’s water resources for navigation, commerce, fishery and recreation through sound science and the protection of private property rights, including the right to reasonable use,” he said. “We have appreciated the opportunity to work with legislators, Governor Kasich and a wide breadth of interested parties on the current version of the legislation, which we believe is a balanced compromise.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Read Antosch’s full testimony to lawmakers