More regulations proposed for manure in Ohio

COLUMBUS — Businesses that sell, transport, and apply manure from large livestock operations will join people who must get state certification to apply chemical fertilizers as part of efforts to reduce toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie under Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal.

Adam Rissien, of the Ohio Environmental Council, called the proposal a “great step forward” saying that the council has long wanted to include manure in legislation for more state regulation.

Senate Bill 150, which took effect last year, requires all applicators of chemical fertilizers to be certified by the state by September, 2017.

Many farmers, however, have already completed the process.

“No other state has done what we did in Ohio,” Adam Sharp, an Ohio Farm Bureau vice president, told the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

The committee has before it Senate Bill 1, which incorporates many agriculture and water-quality issues that were part of last session’s House Bill 490.

That bill was a massive measure that fell apart under the weight of numerous unrelated provisions that lawmakers stuffed into it.

The committee hopes to vote on Feb. 17 with a full Senate vote to come soon after.

Meanwhile, the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, on a separate path, will hear from people most affected by the Toledo area water crisis last summer during a hearing at the Sylvania Municipal Building at 1 p.m. on Feb. 12.

Among other things, Senate Bill 1 would restrict application of manure on frozen, snow-covered, or saturated soil.

It would require the state to work with the federal government to eliminate open-lake dumping of dredged sediment within five years and require better monitoring of phosphorous levels at water treatment plants.

Mr. Kasich’s budget proposal includes some of that but then goes a step further by drawing more big livestock farms under a mandatory certification umbrella.

Currently, those who apply manure must obtain a certified livestock manager certificate if they get it from facilities generating 4,500 dry tons of manure or 25 million gallons of liquid manure in a year, according to Erica Hawkins, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture.

Now those getting the manure from smaller operations would have to get that certification or the new, lesser stringent certification for chemical fertilizers.

Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) recently reintroduced a bill to try to regulate manure application more like other state-regulated fertilizers.

“I have wanted to require certified livestock managers to file reports dealing with manure application, location, and transfer information,” she said, noting the governor’s proposal takes that even further.

The governor’s proposal will require legislative action, but it remains to be seen whether it would be dealt with in Senate Bill 1.

Ms. Brown will work with Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), one of the bill’s sponsors, on possible amendments.

But she doesn’t want to push too hard for fear it might endanger swift action on the bill so that it could affect the hot weather algal growth season this year.

“We could take a step at a time and look back at it if we need to,” she said.

Chad Kemp, president of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, vowed that farmers will be part of the algal bloom solution.

But, like Mr. Gardner, Mr. Kemp noted that other sources such as sewage overflow also contributed to the problem.

“While it is easy to point the finger at agriculture and suggest quick and easy fixes, our water quality problems will not be fixed with quick and easy solutions,” he said.

 

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