Every Ohioan depends on clean, safe water. Water is easy to take for granted. Turn on the faucet, and it is available.
Ohio is a water-rich state, bounded by Lake Erie on the north and the Ohio River on the south, with many streams and rivers within its borders.
In recent years, there have been concerns about the role Ohio’s agriculture community plays in protecting our environment, specifically as it relates to water quality. The good news is – through the passage of comprehensive legislation and detailed environmental regulations, Ohio has in place a robust infrastructure that can and does efficiently and effectively preserve our land, air and water.
As a lifetime resident of the Maumee Bay area and as a member of the Ohio House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, I have a vested interest in finding solutions to preserve our state’s largest natural resource. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the demonstrable achievements as well as recognize the challenges ahead on environmental issues and implement tangible solutions.
Ohio has long been a leader in developing and implementing best practices and regulations for nutrient management – and we have the track record to show it. Legislative proposals like Ohio Senate Bill (SB) 1, which passed in 2015 and establishes standards for on-farm nutrient management and water quality measures, are an important addition to the work livestock farmers already do to protect the state’s waters. SB 1 prohibits the spreading of fertilizer and manure in the Lake Erie Watershed when fields are frozen, snow-covered or saturated.
In addition to SB 1, Ohio Senate Bill 150 was passed in 2014, and requires everyone who applies fertilizer on more than 50 acres for agriculture production to be certified by 2017. SB 150 is the first legislation of its kind in the nation to require certification for fertilizer application. The bill also requires some publicly-owned water treatment facilities to begin monthly monitoring of phosphorus by December 1, 2016.
Starting in 2020, SB150 will ban depositing dredged material in Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie and its tributaries. The measure also contains important provisions that go after “bad actors” – if an applicator applies fertilizer in a manner that causes a problem, they can have their certification revoked and can’t apply fertilizer. They also will face fines and additional charges.
Although these measures are more recent, Ohio’s legislators and the agriculture industry have a long history of working together to identify workable solutions that protect the environment and address water quality issues. More than 15 years ago, Ohio’s General Assembly passed Ohio Senate Bill 141, which established the Ohio Livestock Environmental Permitting Program (LEPP) through the Ohio Department of Agriculture. LEPP is a model program that has been praised across the country for its foresight and effectiveness in assuring permitted farms maintain on-farm environmental protections. The program achieves this through a rigorous permitting process that includes reporting, inspections, public engagement and complaint investigation.
Incorporating good management techniques like these has led to stronger environmental protection, which is good news for citizens of Toledo and across the state. I am proud of the work we have been able to accomplish over the years while continuing to position Ohio as a leader in the nation on environmental issues. With these legislative measures in place, it is now critical to let the rules work as they were designed to do, while remaining vigilant and proactive as future issues arise.
Every Ohioan – from farmers to consumers – has a vested interest in environmentally responsible farming practices. Our state’s policy leaders and the farm community recognize that there are concerns about farming and environmental responsibility, and we will continue to work together to ensure the state’s land, air, streams and waterways are protected for future generations while ensuring our region can continue to grow and prosper.