COLUMBUS — A bill designed to protect Ohio’s waterways and keep farm nutrients in the fields has been signed into law.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed S.B. 150 June 5, which will require most farmers who apply fertilizer to be state certified.
The bill requires one farmer per farm operation to be certified to apply fertilizer, if he applies to 50 or more acres.
The bill was introduced on June 25, 2013, by senators Cliff Hite, who is also chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Bob Peterson.
It was passed unanimously by the Ohio Senate Jan. 22, and by the Ohio House, April 9.
Lawmakers and state agencies willingly worked with the the farm industry over the past several years to form recommendations to improve the water quality issue, which had led to nutrient overloading and the growth of harmful algal blooms in places like Lake Erie, as well as inland lakes and streams.
More than 100 farmers and farm organizations worked together to shape the new recommendations, including Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
“This new law benefits all Ohioans by helping farmers take effective steps to preserve the quality of our state’s waters,” said Jack Fisher, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “It will complement the many voluntary actions already being taken by responsible farmers.”
Fisher said the bill meets Farm Bureau policy goals of including an educational component, being economically feasible and being part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce all sources of nutrients that may get into Ohio’s waters.
It also provides farmers with an option to employ affirmative defense in lawsuits related to fertilizer application, if they keep and follow the appropriate records.
Farmers and state lawmakers have long-known that water pollution comes from many sources, but farmers and the state’s ag leaders decided to be proactive about agriculture’s share.
“Ohio farmers continue their focus on best management practices and doing their part in improving our waterways,” said Jerry Bambauer, OSA president and soybean farmer from Auglaize County, in a prepared statement. “Many farmers are implementing nutrient-management plans that reduce the need for nutrient application, positively impacting the environment.”
Researching the issue
Farmers and the commodity groups that represent them continue to be engaged in research to determine how nutrients are leaving fields, and are researching new farming practices that can limit nutrient loss.
“No one has a clear understanding of how exactly phosphorus is moving through the soil profile, or can explain why there are algae blooms in areas that don’t have agricultural activity near them,” said Brent Hostetler, OCWGA president and Madison County farmer.
For this reason, the Ohio Soybean Council, the Ohio Corn Marketing Program, the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program, and many others are supporting a $2 million research project with more than $1 million coming from Ohio farmers and other agricultural companies, that will measure edge-of-field phosphorus runoff and will show how phosphorus is used in agriculture, how it leaves farm fields and how much of it is actually entering Ohio’s waterways.