Fewer than 9 percent of a city’s registered voters just passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, which declares that Toledoans have legal authority over some 5 million Ohioans, more than 430,000 businesses, thousands of local governments and tens of thousands of farmers. The voters didn’t stop with the 35 Ohio counties that are in the Lake Erie watershed; Toledoans’ new authority extends to parts of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. Under LEBOR, any Toledoan who thinks any business or any government is doing anything that might do any harm anywhere in the lake’s 30,000 square mile drainage basin can sue for damages and legal fees. Maybe.

This new self-granted power shreds existing laws that prevent cities from regulating outside their boundaries or overriding federal or state permits or defining their own felonies. LEBOR does all this, yet it passed. Bolstered by their Toledo win, out-of-state activists are already working on a LEBOR-like ballot measure that would apply statewide. Protests, rallies, advertising campaigns and lawsuits may soon be coming to towns, employers, farms and local governments near you. Maybe.

Why maybe?  Because of the action of one brave Ohio farmer who is standing up for his family and the 11.5 million Ohioans who didn’t vote for this counterfeit solution to a real problem. The farmer, widely acknowledged for his environmentally friendly farming practices, filed a lawsuit, and at press time, a federal judge granted his request to put LEBOR on hold. Unfortunately, public harassment of the farmer isn’t on hold. Farm Bureau is providing assistance, as we often do in precedent-setting court cases, because it’s our job to protect our members and the food and farming sector.

Sadly, this fight was neither necessary nor productive. Even before the election, LEBOR proponents admitted their measure was not likely to stand up in court. And yet we’re now seeing the city of Toledo and an Ohio farmer spending hundreds of man hours and tens of thousands of dollars in litigation. And there’s the resources that farm organizations, like Farm Bureau, must invest to stay apprised of all the legal wrangling. This is time and money that should be invested in real world solutions instead of paying legal expenses.

I have no doubt the citizens of Toledo who favored the Lake Erie Bill of Rights had good intentions. Farmers do, too. Our differences aren’t over whether the lake should be improved and whether farmers can play a role in that. Our differences are over how. Water quality challenges won’t be solved in court rooms. They’ll be solved by farmers, researchers, educators, cities and citizens creating thoughtful solutions to complex problems. About that, there is no maybe.

Featured Image: In the past I’ve met with city officials, environmental leaders and others to provide thoughtful insights into solving Lake Erie challenges. This kind of dialogue needs to take place again. Water quality challenges won’t be solved in court rooms.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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