Ohio fertilizer rule about education, awareness

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WAUSEON, Ohio — The rules are changing on how Ohio’s farmers can apply fertilizer to their fields — and many farmers are OK with that.

Ohio’s new fertilizer law, which was signed by Gov. John Kasich in May — will require most farmers who want to apply fertilizer to their fields to become state-certified by Sept. 30, 2017, and adhere to various other rules and recommendations — all aimed at keeping nutrients in the fields and out of the water.

“I have no problem with it,” said Les Seiler, who farms 1,300 acres in northwestern Ohio, with his brother, Jerry. “We’ve got to be responsible.”

Farmer input

Ohio farmers were actually a big part of the new law, which incorporated farmer input over the past few years, including a state task force intended to define reasonable solutions.

“I think the biggest thing that needs to be done is just education,” Seiler said.

He’s opened his own farm to cover crop research, and research involving a two-stage ditch — which involves a primary drainage channel and a wider, outer channel to mitigate water during larger rain events.

One of the things farmers like about the rule is the ease of becoming certified. If they already receive pesticide applicator certification, they can get certified to apply fertilizer at the same time. The certification fee is $30, and is waived if the farmer already pays the pesticide applicator fee.

More than rules

But rules can’t solve everything. Fulton County farmer Nate Andre said he supports the certification, but at the same time farmers are constantly learning new things — that may or may not fit within a rule.

“Every time you pass a rule, there’s some other thing that we probably didn’t think about and that’s the problem with a lot of the rules that get passed,” he said.

Andre is experimenting with water control devices that control when, and how fast, water leaves his field tiles. Each field has its own soil types and slope, and often requires a different management strategy.

As a state-certified composter, he’s also experimenting with how composted material can improve soil structure and fertility, and retain more nutrients.

Todd Hesterman, who grain farms in Henry County, said state and federal agencies continue to support the planting of cover crops. He said cover crops have potential to hold soil in place, but they also come at a risk.

Farmers in his part of the state, for example, have a shorter growing season — which makes it more difficult to plant and then kill the cover crops — before planting the primary crops.

“We stay wet and cold and I really don’t want to get myself into a pickle to where I can’t get my (main) crops planted,” he said.

Different factors

Farmers in northwestern Ohio still grow cover crops — but with more risk. They occasionally use aerial seeding and, if they have the right equipment, can sometimes interseed the cover crops while the main crop is still standing.

“We need more biodiversity,” Hesterman said. “How we get there, I don’t know yet.”

Eric Richer, OSU Extension educator in Fulton County, said farmers have generally been receptive to the new regulations and certification requirement. In fact, some wanted to become state-certified this fall — several months before the program was first scheduled to begin.

He sees the certification as a way to keep farmers current on the issues, and their options for using fertilizer responsibly.

“Farmers need professional development just like any industry,” he said.

Meeting dates

The law requires farmers who apply fertilizer to 50 or more acres to become certified by Sept. 30 of 2017. The first three available training sessions will be held in Fulton, Hancock and Paulding counties. All meetings will run from 8:30-11:30 a.m., as follows:

Fulton County, Sept. 12. Founders Hall at Sauder Farm and Craft Village, 22611 state Route 2, Archbold, OH 43502.Hancock County, Sept. 25. The Lighthouse Banquet Facility, 10055 W. U.S. Route 224, Findlay, OH 45840.
Paulding County, Sept. 26. OSU Extension Office, 503 Fairgrounds Drive, Paulding, OH 45879

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Chris Kick served Farm and Dairy's readership as a reporter for nearly a decade before accepting a job at Iowa State University Extension. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University.

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