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The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

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 State Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo, provided sponsor testimony last week on a bill that modifies the state law covering farm management plans.

 Noting the 2014 water crisis in Toledo from toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie, Sen. Brown told the Senate Agriculture Committee excessive run-off from farmland is a state-wide problem.

 Senate Bill 224 expands on the legislature’s prior work to reduce nutrient run-off from fields and animal feeding lots, which contributes to the algal blooms, she said.

 “This is a chronic issue that affects not only the safety of our drinking water, but also the tourist industry surrounding Lake Erie,” Brown said. “The General Assembly still has work to do to prevent future water crises.”

 In general, current state law authorizes, but doesn’t require someone who owns or operates agricultural land or an animal feeding operation to develop a management plan that abates the degradation of waterways by animal waste and other pollutants.  

The bill makes management plans mandatory for operations of 50 or more acres as well as small and medium concentrated animal feeding operations.  CAFOs are designated as small or medium based on the number of animals they hold and whether or not they discharge waste waters into ditches. Management plans must also include standards for applying fertilizer or manure.

  Also under the bill, it is mandatory for the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to assess civil penalties and require corrective actions if an operation is violating standards in the management plan.  The bill also streamlines the process the director must follow to assess a  penalty.

 Operational and management plans remain optional for those owning or operating less than 50 acres of farmland and for animal feeding operations that aren’t classified as CAFOs.  However, anyone applying 350 tons or more of dry manure to fields a year will be required to file an annual report with the director of the agriculture department.

 Joe Cornely, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau, said his organization is still reviewing the bill.

 “We don't have a position on SB 224, and haven't fully reviewed it as yet,” he said.  “Not specific to the bill, we believe Ohio already has some of the strongest regulations in the nation. Between those and voluntary steps being taken by farmers we're making significant progress on finding solutions to Ohio's water quality challenges.”

 

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