Watershed rules sent back to ODA for further review

Ohio Farm Bureau testified at a recent Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review meeting where watershed in distress rules potentially impacting eight watersheds in northwest Ohio were discussed. The review committee ultimately decided to send the rules back to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for further study.

JCARR voted 8-1 to send them back to ODA because the proposed amendments to the Ohio Administrative Code were potentially in conflict with the proposed legislative intent of the rules in the first place.

According to Tony Seegers, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, the committee decided to tell ODA to “revise and refile” the rules. Doing so gives the agricultural community more time to work with the new administration in 2019 on the rules. Governor-elect Mike DeWine takes office on Jan. 14.

“The rules as proposed grossly exceeded the statutory authority granted the department by the General Assembly,” Seegers said.

In July, Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order to declare eight watersheds in the Maumee River Basin as “distressed.” The order is subject to approval by the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, which established a task group to study the issue. Upon advice from legislators, Farm Bureau, SWCDs and others, the commission chose to defer its decision pending the outcome of that task group’s study. That outcome recommended the decision to declare the watersheds in distress be deferred until the rules were reviewed by JCARR.

The “watersheds in distress” designation would require 7,000 farmers to create nutrient management plans and restrict nutrient application, but several questions remain on implementation, costs and other resources.

CAPTION: Tony Seegers, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, testifies before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) in December. Photo courtesy Chris Kick/Farm and Dairy, Salem, Ohio