Gov. Taft signs bill to toughen livestock environmental regs

COLUMBUS – Governor Bob Taft signed Dec. 14 the Ohio Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Sen. Larry Mumper, R-Marion, strengthening Ohio’s regulatory authority to protect the public from environmental threats associated with large livestock operations.

“SB 141 creates a regulatory program that is stronger, clearer and more predictable than the current one,” said Taft. “I look forward to working with all parties to ensure this system allows agriculture to thrive in Ohio, while at the same time assures the public a high standard of environmental protection.”

The bill transfers the livestock waste permitting program from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and provides $2 million to fund the program and to hire an appropriate amount of employees to review applications, issue permits and inspect facilities.

The livestock waste permitting program administered by the Ohio EPA did not have designated funding and did not employ full-time inspectors.

According to Taft, Ohio EPA will continue to play an important role in this area, both in an advisory role to ODA and through its other regulatory programs such as solid waste, air and drinking water.

The new regulatory law strengthens the current program in several ways.

Under the state’s old program, large livestock operations received installation permits with indefinite terms, making it difficult to ensure that farmers keep up with best management practices and current environmental standards.

The new law requires farms to obtain operating permits that must be renewed every five years. The public will also have an opportunity to comment on all permits upon renewal.

The largest farms of over 10,000 animal units have strengthened regulatory requirements under this law.

For the first time, anyone owning or operating a livestock operation greater than 10,000 animal units will be obligated to notify local officials and must demonstrate that the manure management activities at their facility are conducted under the supervision of a “certified livestock manager.”

The new law also gives additional authority to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ensure that action can be taken against any farms with less than 1,000 animal units that are being operated in an environmentally unsound manner.

Penalties now exist for violating the new permit to operate, the insect and rodent control plan requirement, and the certified livestock manager requirement. Applicants for new large livestock operations must supply extensive information on their environmental compliance history to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The director is given the authority to deny a permit if that applicant has a history of substantial noncompliance.

All animal facilities that now have a permit to operate will be brought under the new permitting system within five years.

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