COLUMBUS – Ohio will start 2001 on a new footing with the mega-farm livestock operations that are beginning to make their appearance in the state.
The legislative measure to transfer responsibility for regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the Ohio Department of Agriculture has passed the Ohio House of Representatives and House amendments of the measure have subsequently been approved by the Senate.
After five tries to get it through, the measure to take firm control over large animal facilities is now on its way to Gov. Bob Taft.
The governor has said he supports this legislation in its present form, and he is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the year.
On Nov. 15, the House passed an amended version of Sen. Larry Mumper’s Senate Bill 141 by a vote of 82 to 10. When Mumper brought the House version to the Senate Nov. 16, the Senate concurred by a vote of 26 to 7.
Passed by the Senate in May, the bill establishes procedures for permitting and regulating animal facilities that include more than 1,000 animal units.
Under the leadership of House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Vice Chairman Jim Buchy, R-Greenville, it has been extensively revised.
The House version of the bill substituted a two-step permitting process for CAFOs for the single permit to operate required by the Senate version.
Under this bill, before any large animal feeding operation can be built, it will need both a permit to construct under rules that will be established by the department of agriculture, and then will need a five-year renewable permit to operate when it begins stocking animals.
The department of agriculture will have the same powers as OEPA to enforce the permits, and ODA will also administer the NPDES and stormwater permitting programs.
All permit applications will require public notice and a public hearing before they are approved.
And, under language submitted by the County Commissioner’s Association, the owner/operator of any permitted facility will be required to meet with county commissioners and township trustees to discuss infrastructure issues.Commissioners or township officials will also must be notified in advance if a large farm intends to install or enlarge an operation.
The House version of the bill also requires regular inspections of all permitted facilities.
All existing permitted facilities will be reviewed within two years, and may be required to update operational practices before receiving a compliance certificate.
Operational requirements that were already included in the Senate bill included insect and rodent control plans, background checks for applicants, an approved manure management plan, a plan for water table monitoring and for the prevention of contamination of groundwater.
Any facility with more than 10,000 units will be required to have a certified manure manager.
Under the proposed legislation, the director of agriculture has the power to assess civil penalties and to order any facility that is in noncompliance to stop production until the problem is resolved.
As passed, the bill has not only the support of the Ohio Environmental Health Association, but also of major farm organizations.
In endorsing the measure, the Ohio Livestock Coalition said it would reduce the barriers that currently exist to livestock production and expansion.
“We see this piece of legislation accomplishing that by providing family livestock and poultry farmers with a defined set of established rules and regulations that protect the environment,” said David White, OLC executive director.
In announcing its support, the Ohio Farm Bureau said the bill includes numerous regulatory provisions to assure the public. The Farm Bureau supports the transfer of authority, which it said gives livestock producers confidence that the agency regulating them has a working knowledge of farming practices, and a track record of tough, but fair, enforcement.