State agencies craft manure agreement

COLUMBUS — In a move designed to reduce regulatory redundancies between their agencies, the directors of the Ohio Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources recently announced a proposal to streamline the management of manure in the state to bring all oversight of farmers applying agricultural nutrients under a single agency.

Current law gives oversight of agricultural pollution and manure management responsibility for smaller livestock farms to ODNR while ODA regulates the large livestock farms. Under this proposal, ODNR’s authority over manure management on small-scale farms would be transferred to the state agriculture department which already runs a robust manure management program and has authority over other agricultural nutrients.

Create uniformity

While the proposal does not amend existing manure use regulations, it would create uniformity in how those regulations are enforced by bringing small-scale farmers under the same department as large-scale producers and farmers applying commercial fertilizer.

“This proposal will improve efficiencies by reducing the redundancies that currently exist between our agencies regarding the management of manure,” said Ohio Agriculture Director David Daniels. “More importantly, it also allows us to ensure the management of all agricultural nutrients is fully coordinated within one cabinet agency.”

As part of this transition, ODNR would continue to administer the existing manure handling, storage and application requirements within the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed as long as it is still designated a watershed in distress.

ODNR would also continue to maintain authority for providing technical programs and services relative to soil health, soil erosion and drainage management and would maintain authority for silvicutlure and other soil and water conservation programs which have historically been administered by ODNR through the Division of Soil and Water Resources.

“Having one agency oversee livestock farming operations makes sense and eliminates duplicated services,” said ODNR Director James Zehringer. “There will be no change to the critical role that Ohio’s soil and water conservation districts fulfill in addressing manure-related issues, nor will there be any change to our commitment to partner with SWCDs in conserving our natural resources.”

The proposal, originally introduced as part of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s mid-biennium review, is now included as a part of H.B. 490 and is being considered by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

One Comment

  1. Kent Stuckey says:

    As this might seem like a good idea on the surface, it brings more questions than answers. How will dividing the pollution abatement program between two agencies be streamlining? ODA will handle manure nutrients and ODNR will handle all other aspects of pollution abatement. How will this be funded? It’s not a simple shuffle around. Will an already stretched ODA be able to handle this? Will SWCD’s be perceived as being regulatory? These are just a few of the many questions that need to be addressed. A thorough discussion needs to be had to determine if this transfer will make things better. At the end of the day it needs to be better than what we currently have, as proposed just being as good, is likely unattainable. Kent Stuckey, dairy producer.

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