Ohio Farm Bureau Federation has pledged its support to member and Wood County farmer Mark Drewes, who today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality and legal status of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. Toledo voters yesterday approved creation of LEBOR during a special election. Drewes’ suit was filed in the Federal District Court for Northern Ohio.
LEBOR grants rights to Lake Erie and empowers any Toledo citizen to file lawsuits on behalf of the lake. It gives Toledoans authority over nearly 5 million Ohioans, thousands of farms, more than 400,000 businesses and every level of government in 35 northern Ohio counties plus parts of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada.
LEBOR was passed despite the prevailing legal opinion that many of its provisions are unconstitutional.
Drewes is a long-time member of Ohio Farm Bureau and is on the board of directors for The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association. Drewes Farm Partnership is a family crop operation in Custar, Ohio with a significant history of being dedicated to improving water quality.
“Mark’s farm is an example of the right way of doing things” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “He’s employing a variety of conservation practices, water monitoring systems, water control structures and uses variable rate enabled equipment and yet he’s vulnerable to frivolous lawsuits. We are proud that our member has stood up against this overreach, and his efforts will benefit all Farm Bureau members, farmers and protect jobs in Ohio.”
OFBF has historically engaged in precedent setting court cases that potentially affect its members. Farm Bureau will actively assist Drewes and his legal team throughout this litigation to ensure our members’ concerns are heard. OFBF’s legal staff will monitor developments, lend agricultural expertise and provide supporting information about agriculture’s efforts to protect water quality.
Drewes is represented by the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, which has extensive experience fighting against onerous government action.
Thomas Fusonie, a partner at Vorys and one of the counsel for Drewes, explained, “The Charter Amendment is an unconstitutional and unlawful assault on the fundamental rights of family farms in the Lake Erie Watershed – like the Drewes’ 5th generation family farm. The lawsuit seeks to protect the Drewes’ family farm from this unconstitutional assault.”
The suit argues LEBOR violates federal constitutional rights, including equal protection, freedom of speech and is unenforceable for its vagueness. A request for preliminary and permanent injunction was also filed seeking to prevent enforcement of the law.
“Farmers want and are working toward improving water quality, but this new Toledo law hurts those efforts. Mark Drewes understands this, and it’s Farm Bureau’s job to back his important actions on behalf of Ohio farmers,” Sharp said.