Press Release

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New Bill Aims to Protect Waterways from Harmful Nutrients

Ohio Environmental Council, July 19, 2013

Legislation  aims to address the problem of excess nutrients from farms in Ohio waterways.

Ohio’s farmland is a valuable natural resource for food, fiber, and fuel production. Ohio’s rich farmland is one of our state’s biggest economic drivers as well as providing us with homegrown food throughout the seasons.

As part of their farming practices, farmers apply fertilizers and other nutrients to help their crops thrive. And when these nutrients stay on the land, they do their job very well.

The problem is when those nutrients run off the land and into our lakes, rivers, and streams, and possibly into our drinking water.

Excess nutrients – such as phosphorous and other materials – that run into our waters have contributed to the toxic algal blooms in areas like the western basin of Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys. These algal blooms threaten the health of the ecosystem and the local economy.

Farmers need to put their farm field on a nutrient “diet.” With more widespread knowledge and implementation of conservation-wise tilling practices, farmers are best suited to help keep fertilizers and manure in the soil and out of waterways.

A bill was introduced on June 25 in the Ohio Senate that aims to address the run-off problem.

Senators Cliff Hite (R–Findlay) and Bob Peterson (R–Sabina) are co-sponsoring SB 150, titled Agricultural Additives, Lime and Fertilizer Law, which was referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Committee hearings could begin as early as mid-September.

The bill aims to:

  • revise the law governing the abatement of agricultural pollution;
  • require a person that applies fertilizer for the purposes of agricultural production to be certified to do so by the Director of Agriculture;
  • provide for an agricultural pesticide-use category on commercial and private pesticide applicator licenses, and;
  • make other changes to the Agricultural Additives, Lime and Fertilizer Law.

“The recently introduced Senate Bill 150 would be an important step forward in assuring that farmers fully understand the importance of nutrient management,” says Joe Logan, OEC’s Director of Agricultural Programs. “This is especially important in light of the recent harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and elsewhere, and in light of new information about the solubility and mobility of phosphorus.”

“For generations, farmers have been told that phosphorus was stable in the soils because it bonds tightly to soil particles,” Logan continued. “We now know that a significant fraction of phosphorus is soluble and can move easily with water.”