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OHIO SENATE

Legislation cracks down on manure as fertilizer

Bill would avoid delay, start at end of this year

Editor's Note: This version corrects that operations capable of producing 350 tons or more of manure in a year to maintain sufficient safe storage for that manure for up to four months.

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Thick algae floats in Lake Erie at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon.

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COLUMBUS — The first bill to crack down on the application of manure as a fertilizer on farmland in the wake of the Toledo water crisis was introduced Thursday in the Ohio Senate with more expected in the House.

Senate Bill 356, proposed by state Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), would add animal manure to the fertilizers for which state certification would be required. It also seeks to have this requirement take effect at the end of this year as opposed to the Sept. 13, 2017, under current law for chemical and synthetic fertilizers.

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“Regulation of manure does not mean that I don’t appreciate the contribution of our farmers to the state’s economy and to its food supply,” Ms. Brown said. “I know that for many smaller farmers it is their family’s livelihood. But I also know that they want to be part of the solution in addressing the future health of Lake Erie and its tributaries.”

State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) is prepared to soon introduce the first of what may be several bills to try to address the phosphorous runoff problem. It would prohibit the application of manure as a fertilizer when the ground is snow-covered or frozen, when the ground is saturated with water, or when the local weather forecast predicts a better than 50 percent chance of half an inch of precipitation during the next 24 hours.

It would also require animal operations where livestock is capable of producing 350 tons or more of manure in a year to maintain sufficient safe storage for that manure for up to four months.

Mr. Sheehy said he also plans to introduce a bill to require mandatory routine testing for microsystin, the toxin created as the algae dies.

“This needs to be resolved,” he said. “We can’t wait two years. We have to reduce the nutrient load in the spring of next year.”

House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) charged Rep. Dave Hall (R., Millersburg), chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, with exploring responses to Toledo’s water crisis and the broader phosphorous runoff issue.

“Grand Lakes St. Marys was the first harbinger that something has to be done here,” said Joe Logan, a Trumbull County farmer and president of the Ohio Farmers Union that focuses on independent and family farmers. The organization supports addressing manure issues as part of a menu of ways to deal with the problem.

Senate Bill 150, passed earlier this year, requires anyone who applies chemical fertilizers to either be state certified or work under someone who is state certified beginning in September, 2017.

Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, said that law should be given a chance to work before trying to pass a new one applying a one-size-fits-all fix to diverse agricultural operations.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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