A bill that requires fertilizer applicator certification for most of Ohio’s farmers is now law. But some news stories about the Toledo water crisis and Senate Bill 150 have made it sound like the bill signed into law in June doesn’t do anything until 2017 and has “no teeth.”
Following are some points about the new law that you may need to know as you have conversations about fertilizer regulation in Ohio.
Myth: Farmers aren’t doing anything with reducing fertilizer runoff because SB150 doesn’t go into effect until 2017.
Fact: SB150 is enacted. SB150 requires everyone who applies fertilizer on more than 50 acres for agriculture production to be certified by 2017. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has started drafting the rules for SB150’s implementation as well as working with OSU Extension to develop the curriculum. It is expected that farmers will begin certification training and be certified as early as this fall. Farmers are already implementing many of the bill’s requirements, including participating in the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program.
Myth: SB150 has “no teeth.”
Fact: SB150 is the first legislation of its kind in the nation to require certification for fertilizer application. The state can go after “bad actors” who apply fertilizer in a manner that causes a problem. Most states don’t require this. Penalties include fines and certificate revocation, meaning farmers and others can’t apply fertilizer.
Myth: Manure isn’t regulated in Ohio.
Fact: Since manure and its application is already regulated in Ohio, SB150 focused on fertilizer application. Including manure in SB150 would have been duplicative and potentially confusing. For large livestock farms, manure is regulated through the federal NPDES livestock permitting program and the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting (DLEP). Livestock farms under DLEP jurisdiction must operate under state issued permits to install and permits to operate. For smaller livestock farms, they are regulated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and are also subject to Ohio’s ag pollution abatement laws. These laws include mandating the farm operate under an operation and management plan approved by ODNR’s Chief of the Division of Soil and Water Conservation or be referred to DLEP to be permitted and regulated under its authority.