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Published: Thursday, 12/11/2008

Comments on ag regulatory change due


Time is running out for Ohioans to comment on one of the biggest transfers of power proposed in state regulatory history.

Ohio is trying to become the first state to have its environmental rules for megafarms carried out by its state department of agriculture, the same agency that promotes such operations.

Other states regulate them with their environmental agencies.

The transfer would impact concentrated animal feeding operations, often called CAFOs, as well as smaller farms to a lesser extent.

The Ohio General Assembly approved the transfer in 2000.

However, it can't go into effect until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signs off on it because of the agency's mandate to enforce the federal Clean Water Act. In most cases, it delegates that to a state agency.

Large livestock farms have become widespread nationally as agriculture consolidates. But the impact of concentrating thousands of animals in one spot has drawn controversy from scientists worried about ecological risks to property owners worried about land values.

Most of Ohio's current and proposed megafarms are in the northwest and southwest parts of the state.

On Nov. 18, the federal EPA held its only public hearing on the proposed transfer. That event, in Columbus, was attended by about 150 people.

The U.S. EPA has announced it will not hold any additional public hearings or extend the comment period beyond Tuesday, even though it termed Ohio's plan as a "substantial revision" to the regulatory program.

The federal EPA opened last month's hearing by saying it would consider a second hearing and extend the comment period if it felt there was enough interest.

Lynn Buhl, administrator of the U.S. EPA's Midwest regional office in Chicago, said her agency has received more than 6,000 comments.

To comment letters should be postmarked by Tuesday.

Letters should be mailed to Matthew Gluckman, U.S. EPA Region 5, 77 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL, 60604-3590.

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