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Lake Erie water bill sent to Gov. Kasich

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a compromise bill known as Substitute Senate Bill 1 that combines parts of the House and Senate bills addressing water quality that were passed earlier this year. The Senate concurred with the amendments and SB 1 now awaits the governor’s signature. Senators Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Bob Peterson, R-Sabina sponsored the bill.

The bill prohibits the spreading of manure or fertilizer in the Lake Erie Watershed when fields are frozen, snow-covered or saturated. There are exemptions in place if the fertilizer or manure is incorporated within 24 hours or injected. Nutrient application is also prohibited if there is a greater than 50% chance of rainfall of more than one inch in the following 12 hours for granular nitrogen and phosphorus, and a half inch in 24 hours for manure.

In addition, farms applying manure from a Confined Animal Feeding Operation will be required to have a Livestock Manager Certification or be certified for nutrient application under SB 150. This applies to any farms applying manure from a CAFO statewide. Because the new regulations will require some farms to add costly manure storage facilities, language in the bill was changed to include one and two-year exemptions from new regulation for affected producers applied to all small and medium-sized livestock farmers.

The bill also intends to shift administration and enforcement of the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to the Ohio Department of Agriculture by July 1. Both ODA and ODNR will be authorized to investigate complaints with regard to possible violations of the prohibitions. Violators will face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the most severe infractions.

In addition, SB 1 requires phosphorus monitoring at water treatment plants, updates sewer rules, and bans open-lake disposal of dredged material from ports and harbors in Lake Erie starting in 2020, with oversight from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. It also creates a coordinator for the Office of Harmful Algae Management and Response. Three years after the implementation of the bill, it will be reassessed for any needed changes and reported to the governor.

“SB 1 is an opportunity to develop long-term strategies that preserve Ohio’s waterways, and we welcome others to follow Ohio’s farm community’s leadership in continuing the conversation about effective ways to address water quality issues such as Lake Erie algae blooms,” said Bill Knapke, Ohio Pork Council President, speaking on behalf of Ohio livestock and poultry farmers.

The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) and Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) also expressed their support for the passage of SB 1.

“Water quality is a complex issue and requires a hard look at all variables and sources in order to find solutions that work. Thanks to the science-based approach of Ohio legislators, SB 1 takes a realistic look at agronomic practices, issues with water treatment facilities and addresses the dumping of dredge material in one of Ohio’s most valued resources — Lake Erie,” the groups said in a statement. “Additionally, this bill will prohibit the application of nitrogen and phosphorus on frozen and snow-covered ground with exemptions granted only under very specific circumstances as recommended by science.

“Ohio corn, soybean and wheat farmers take great pride in growing food for their neighbors and take seriously their responsibility to protect the soil and water. They have stepped up to this challenge and will continue to lead the way. There doesn’t have to be a choice between food production and water quality. Both can be achieved.”

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