Ohio bill would curb fertilizer runoff

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The Ohio State Senate is considering a bill that would require reductions in fertilizer runoff produced by farms. Senate bill 150 was recently introduced by Republican State Senator Cliff Hite. The bill aims to grant state agencies new regulatory powers to slow down the spread of toxic blue green algae in Lake Erie.

The bill would empower the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) to cite farmers who allow fertilizers to runoff their field.

Under the proposed bill, the Chief of ODNR would issue orders to farmers to comply with technical standards, to be created by ODNR, that “achieve a level of management and conservation practices that will…abate the degradations of the waters of the state by soil amendments.” Under this legislation, farmers will have to undergo training and receive a certificate from ODA to apply fertilizers and manure. “Farmers would apply for a fertilizer certificate in the same way they obtain pesticide certificates,” Erica Hawkins, an ODA spokeswoman, told the Columbus Dispatch.

Under the bill, no new permits or certifications for animal feeding facilities would be required and an individual farmer’s fertilizer and manure-management plans would not be made public record. However, Ohio State Senator Bob Peterson has said he favors amending the bill to move ODNR’s power to regulate manure and fertilizer pollution to ODA.

Toxic blue-green algae have been increasing in Lake Erie, officials say. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) scientists have predicted that this summer’s bloom will be significant. This type of algae grows after feeding on phosphorus in fertilizers and manure that runoff farmers’ fields and into streams that pour into Lake Erie. This algae is toxic to humans and aquatic life.

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