Get ready for more changes in farm practices


As I sit in my office today trying to decide what to write about in this week’s column, I look out my window at the beautiful black-eyed susans and am in awe.

Working in the natural resources field, we are more connected to nature than many, yet we still take it for granted.

Many days I think we all get so caught up with work and the stress of daily life that we lose track of what is important and how much we have to be thankful for.

I am inspired by quotations and use them for reflection within my own life.

One quote comes to me today. “Enjoy the little things in life for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Take some time

Take just a few minutes to appreciate the small things in your life and it will be that much easier to accomplish the larger tasks.

Fall is just around the corner. Please take time and a break from life to get out and enjoy the beauty that comes with it through county fairs, drive-it-yourself tours, field days, sporting events, community activities, etc.

Just as with the seasons, the approaching fall reminds me that change is the one constant in our lives.

Changes at ODNR. By the beginning of 2016, there will be many changes. Some of the changes will directly impact our local Soil and Water Conservation District, but may not affect the general public at all.

Several years ago, the ODNR Division of Soil and Water and the Division of Water were merged to create the Division of Soil and Water Resources. With the passage of the most recent state budget bill, this will now be dissolved.

The Division of Soil and Water Resources will no longer exist. ODNR will now create a new Division of Water.

The agricultural components that used to be part of the ODNR Division of Soil and Water will now be a new division of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Urban components will now become part of Ohio EPA.

So, you may be asking, how does this affect me. More than likely it won’t.

The local soil and water conservation districts will continue to offer the same services and in the future may potentially have even more resources to assist you with. The administrative process will change, but the service will not.

Nutrient management

There are also many changes on the horizon as it pertains to nutrient management, including both fertilizer and livestock waste. The new law is known as amended S.B. 1.

The law generally prohibits farmers in the western Lake Erie basin from applying manure and chemical fertilizer when the ground is frozen, snow-covered, or saturated with precipitation.

Farmers in the western basin are also prohibited from applying nutrients when rain is likely. Farmers do have some exceptions that they may use such as injecting the fertilizer or manure, incorporating the nutrients within 24 hours of surface application, or applying nutrients to a growing cover crop.

All producers should be aware of these rules. The law currently only affects a specific geographic area but that could change at any time and be inclusive of all of Ohio.

Flood insurance

In April, there was congressional action that mandated reforms required by the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA). This new law slows some flood insurance rate increases and offers relief to some policyholders who experienced steep flood insurance premium increases in 2013 and early 2014.

The changes that have taken place also include an increase in the Reserve Fund Assessment, the implementation of an annual surcharge on all new and renewed policies, an additional deductible option, an increase in the Federal Policy Fee and rate increases for most policies.

If you have been affected by these changes and have further questions, refer to the WYO¬14053 bulletin, or search the FEMA Fact Sheet addressing how the April 2015 program changes will affect flood insurance premiums.

New sewage rules

This year also brought the implementation of new sewage rules. The updated regulations can be found on the Ohio Department of Health website. Don’t let rumors lead you into expensive repairs and unnecessary sewage system replacements.

Ohio’s new sewage rules will not require everyone in the state to automatically replace their septic system. The new sewage rules are in place for several reasons. The rules haven’t been updated since 1977.

Among some of the rumors are that leach fields are no longer an option. Septic tank/leach field systems are still allowed under the new rules and are the preferred system when soil conditions are good.

You can keep your current system as-is as long as there’s not sewage on the top of the ground, missing parts/pieces or backup in your home. If a system is “failing,” it could indicate a number of problems, but this doesn’t necessarily meant you will have to replace the entire system to meet the standards in the new rules or the existing state laws — it could just mean replacing missing or broken parts adding treatment.

If you would like more information, visit the ODH website or contact your local health department. These are just a few of the many changes occurring that our office is linked to in some capacity.

It is difficult to stay abreast of these changes. My advice to any landowner is do your homework.

No matter what you are planning to do — purchase land, build a home, expand your livestock operations, etc. … contact your local soil and water office or other local agency, to help guide you in the right direction.

Please make sure you are informed of local floodplain development rules, zoning, soils, and the list goes on and on.

We live in a time where most resist change. Progress is impossible without change. Whether it be regulations, careers, family situations or our health, we can’t always control what happens but we can control how we respond.

I would like to leave you today with a quote from Socrates: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”


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Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management.



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