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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2003

Citizen groups seek veto of big-farm bill


COLUMBUS - Several citizen groups asked Gov. Bob Taft yesterday to veto a bill they say was amended to prevent local governments from trying to regulate large-scale farms.

“Governor Taft has a clear choice to make; he can stand up for the right of local communities to decide what is in their best interests, or he can side with corporate agriculture,” Susan Studer King of the Ohio Environmental Council in a written statement.

The legislature last month approved a bill that would put Ohio into compliance with federal rules regulating so-called “factory farms. “

An amendment that Sen. Larry Mumper (R., Marion) added would prevent local governments from requiring licenses, permits, or other regulations to control manure, insects, rodents, or odor before a large-scale farm opens, said Jack Shaner, a lobbyist with the Ohio Environmental Council.

Keith Lang, a member of a Kenton group formed to fight a large dairy farm slightly smaller than the “factory farms “ that the state can regulate, said: “When we met with the governor last summer to talk about fly and odor concerns, he told us there was nothing he could do, that it was the responsibility of local governments. If he meant what he said, he'll veto this bill.”

The governor has not made a decision yet, said press secretary Orest Holubec.

Larry Gearhardt, a lobbyist for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said Mr. Mumper's amendment would not remove any authority from local agencies. It would clarify that local agencies don't have the power to adopt more stringent regulations than the state or determine where large-scale farms can be located, he said.

“If those livestock facilities pose a nuisance or a health threat, those local boards of health have the authority to act,” said Mr. Gearhardt, who said the Farm Bureau supports Mr. Mumper's amendment.

Mr. Mumper was not available for comment.

Mr. Lang said Mr. Mumper's amendment would prevent local health agencies from adopting regulations on any farm - not just the large ones that the state Department of Agriculture regulates.

Those signing the letter include Matt Baumgardner, president of Wood County Citizens Opposed to Factory Farms; David Burkhart, president of Citizens of Putnam County for Clean Air & Water, Inc.; David Blessing, president of Fulton County Citizens for Responsible Agriculture; and Sister Marceille Liebrecht, of the Sisters of St. Francis of Tiffin.

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