ODA step closer to permitting authority

SALEM, Ohio – With Gov. Bob Taft’s signature now on the line, the Ohio Department of Agriculture is one crucial step closer to being the state’s livestock permitting authority.

The bill updated Ohio law to match federal law changes made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last spring, according to Deb Abbott, spokeswoman for ODA’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program.

Now that state and federal laws mirror each other regarding livestock rules, ODA can make plans to apply to the U.S. EPA for the authority to issue federal permits, Abbott said.

Shifting authority. ODA already has the permission to issue permits to operate and permits to install, however farmers have to look elsewhere for federal permits like the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits.

The goal is for farmers to only have to deal with one agency, meaning the ODA, for permits, Abbott said.

Although Ohio EPA would no longer have permitting authority, it would still have control of water quality issues.

Abbott said she is unsure of the application timetable. ODA must first make rule changes to parallel the law changes, she said.

Terminology. The law also redefines farms as small, medium or large, casting aside animal unit designations.

These updates match the U.S. EPA’s terminology changes, which are already in use.

Operations with 700 or more dairy cows, 1,000 or more beef cattle or 2,500 hogs weighing more than 55 pounds are considered large.

Controversy. Although the bulk of the bill focuses on ODA complying with federal rules, a controversial amendment generated the most attention.

Opponents fought Republican Sen. Larry Mumper’s amendment, calling the legislation to prevent local governments from regulating farms “a stealth amendment.”

Opposing groups fear the law will strip local government’s authority to require permits and licenses to control odor and insects prior to a farm’s construction.

Local governments will have no say in the permitting process, however Mumper said this isn’t anything new. Local governments never had the ability to deny or authorize permits.

In an interview in early July, Mumper stressed the provision does not take away local authority; local government cannot supersede state and federal law.

Local health departments can still investigate reported health issues, Mumper said.

The future. Taft signed the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Reinhard, last week, and it will go into effect Nov. 4.

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