COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Agriculture has tapped Kevin Elder to lead its new livestock regulatory division.
Elder, who is also already being called Ohio’s “megafarm czar,” is currently administrator of conservation engineering and technical assistance at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
At ODA, Elder will help establish a new division to regulate the state’s largest livestock and poultry farms. ODA gained oversight of large livestock operations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency through S.B. 141, signed Dec. 14 by Gov. Bob Taft.
“Few people have the combination of hands-on expertise in farming, pollution abatement, soil management and manure handling systems as Kevin Elder,” said Ohio Agriculture Director Fred L. Dailey.
The new division will regulate livestock operations with more than 1,000 animal units. According to the ODA, there are currently 125 operations that fall in that category.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Elder admitted. “You’ll please nobody. I’ll be doing well if some of the farmers are mad at me and some of the environmentalists are mad at me.
“These regulations won’t unify everyone’s perceptions and expectations.”
The division’s first task will be to write the rules for the regulations, a responsibility that helped lure the seventh generation farmer to the new post. “I want to see a good set of rules written that are fair to farmers and that help protect our natural resources.”
ODA will draft new rules governing construction standards for all new and existing large livestock and poultry farms; all aspects of manure storage, handling, transportation and application; and the farms’ insect and rodent control plans.
It’s also Elder’s goal to create a standard set of scientific criteria used in the permitting process.
Elder optimistically hopes to complete the public rule-making process within a year.
The new division will also be responsible for onsite inspections of permit applicants and current permit holders. “Paper permits don’t mean much unless they’re followed up on,” he said.
He said the inspections, although regulatory in nature, can also help educate livestock operators to better management practices. “A different pair of eyes sees things differently,” Elder said.
Since joining the ODNR’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation in 1986, Elder has been instrumental in rewriting Ohio’s agricultural pollution abatement law and developing the state’s manure management program. He has also been responsible for ensuring all ag pollution complaints were investigated and addressed.
Most recently, Elder coordinated the ODNR’s technical assistance to the 88 local soil and water conservation districts and worked with USDA agencies to design and inspect the construction of natural resource conservation practices.