A flurry of activity was going on at the Statehouse and in Congress with legislators working to pass legislation before going on summer recess. Here’s the status of some legislation that Farm Bureau was working on as of press time.
State operating budget
In the state budget bill, Ohio Farm Bureau advocated for an increase in funding for OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and OSU’s Sea Grant program. OFBF supported modifying the AgLink program, a loan interest reduction program run by the state treasurer, to assist farmers in the Western Lake Erie Basin who want to build manure storage infrastructure, purchase incorporation equipment or plant cover crops in order to comply with Senate Bill 1. OFBF also supported making key changes to how Career Technical Education (CTE) programs are funded and increasing the funding levels for CTE programs including ag education.
Transfer of nutrient management authority to ODA
An amendment in the state budget would transfer the division of soil and water in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) as well as the soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). ODA currently oversees the concentrated animal feeding facilities, the large permitted livestock farms, as well as fertilizer application while ODNR oversees agricultural pollution from non-permitted livestock farms. Under the proposal, ODA would have jurisdiction for all agricultural pollution issues, including inspections and enforcement of violations involving non-permitted livestock farms.
OFBF supports the concept of the transfer, which will give farmers a single point of contact for nutrient issues. However, language in the budget contains new regulatory authority that Farm Bureau opposes and will ask the governor to veto.
In late May, the Ohio House unanimously passed an agritourism bill, and the Senate was working on its own version. Both are based on model legislation developed by Ohio Farm Bureau. The bills address three areas of concern expressed by OFBF members: zoning, liability and application of Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV). If passed, the legislation would spell out that agritourism is considered agriculture, which means those businesses would still qualify for CAUV and not be subject to zoning at the local levels. It also would help farmers deal with liability issues and the cost of insurance.
Trade Promotion Authority
Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) allows the U.S. president to negotiate international agreements with Congress giving up or down votes but no amendments or filibusters. Farm Bureau supports passage of TPA, which would give farmers access to new markets around the world. The House narrowly passed TPA after it was separated from another trade measure meant to help workers impacted by trade deals. The Senate also passed TPA recently, sending it to President Obama for his signature.
Timely updates on these and other bills can be found in the bi-weekly Buckeye Farm e-News. If you aren’t getting the e-newsletter, sign up online. Buckeye Farm eNews is a member-only benefit.