What you need to know about Ohio’s new nutrient law

The purpose of Senate Bill 1 is to help control algae growth in Lake Erie and its western basin and was a top priority for the current General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich.

Ohio Farm Bureau supported this bill because it balances clean water and food production. OFBF is working with lawmakers and the governor’s office on the state budget in an effort to increase funding for resources in the WLEB that can assist farmer compliance with the law.

Farm Bureau members have had several questions about Senate Bill 1 since it was signed into law April 2. Here is a Q&A that explains what farmers need to do to comply and how the new law will affect their operation.

When does the law go into effect?

On July 1.

Where is it in effect?

The 24 Ohio counties or parts of those counties that make up the Western Lake Erie Basin.

How does the law define fertilizer?

Phosphorus and nitrogen.

When can’t fertilizer or manure be applied?

•On frozen or snow-covered soil,

•When the two top inches of soil are saturated with precipitation or

•If the local weather forecast calls for a greater than 50 percent chance of precipitation exceeding one inch in a 12-hour period for fertilizer and one-half inch in a 24-hour period for manure.

Are there any exceptions on the restriction of fertilizer or manure application?

If you can inject fertilizer or manure into the ground, incorporate it within 24 hours or apply it to a growing crop, then you can apply it.

What if my manure storage is almost full? Are there further exceptions?

You can get written approval from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ (ODNR) chief of soil and water resources to temporarily apply the manure according to procedure outlined in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service standard 590.

What’s the enforcement process?

It’s a complaint-driven process, which means someone will have to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to report a violation of fertilizer application and ODNR for a violation of manure application. If state officials think the complaint is valid, they can inspect the property and then hold a hearing. Farmers found in violation can be issued a fine and be ordered to comply with the law.

What is the fine?

Up to $10,000 for each violation.

I don’t think I can comply immediately with this bill. What should I do?

Depending on the size of your facility (small or medium), you can request a temporary exemption that will give you more time to come into compliance. The amount of time depends on whether you have a small or medium-sized farm as defined in the law.

How do I get this temporary exemption and how much time do I have to comply?

You can request it by filling out a form with ODNR. ODNR has 30 days to approve or deny the request. While the application request is being reviewed, you can’t be fined for a violation. Requests approved for small farms have until July 1, 2017 and medium farms until July 1, 2016 come into compliance. Farmers can’t be fined during the exemption time period.

Does this apply to large-scale permitted livestock operations?

No because they are already regulated under current law.

Is agriculture the only area covered in the bill?

No. Publically owned treatment works will be required to begin monthly monitoring of total and dissolved reactive phosphorus. Open lake dumping of dredging in Lake Erie will be prohibited by 2020. However, dredge material may be dumped into Lake Erie if the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency determines it is suitable and meets the location and purpose.

How do I find out more about Senate Bill 1?

More information is available, including the law’s definition of a small or medium-sized farm, in the attached document or from Tony Seegers at 614-246-8265 or [email protected]