OFBF supports manure regulation transfer, pending nutrient law

This week Ohio Farm Bureau testified about House Bill 490, a bill originally intended to focus on agricultural and environmental issues but that now contains many special interests. OFBF does not support some provisions in the bill such as a telecommunications deregulation measure, saying it lacks proper consumer protections.

In HB 490, OFBF supports a measure to transfer manure management regulations from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. This move would consolidate the oversight of nutrients under one agency and better serve farmers by giving them a single point of contact for nutrient management issues, said Ohio Farm Bureau Director of State Policy Tony Seegers. The legislation also would provide “quicker and tougher enforcement against bad actors,” he testified.

Ohio Farm Bureau also supports a nutrient management provision that would help address problems caused by harmful algal blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). The measure would ban the spreading of manure or commercial fertilizer in the WLEB when conditions are conducive to nutrient runoff. These conditions include frozen or snow-covered ground, when the top two inches of soil are saturated by precipitation or when there is at least a 50 percent chance of precipitation in the weather forecast.

However, the law would allow application under the above conditions if the nutrients are injected into the ground, incorporated within 24 hours of surface application or are applied to a growing crop.

“Based on input from our members who have different sizes and types of operations, Farm Bureau believes this conservation practice is both workable and effective,” Seegers said in his testimony. “Additionally, many of the bill’s provisions are based on existing standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which farmers say are effective.”

Seegers noted to members of the Senate Agriculture Committee that ODA will need additional funds to execute the transfer of manure management regulation to ODNR and enforce the new manure application standards.