The Toledo water problems of 2014 caused growing concerns over water quality, especially in Lake Erie’s western basin. In order to fully address the issues with nutrient loading in Lake Erie we must address issues in our municipalities and in farm country.
Understanding that many farmers in northwestern Ohio have taken voluntary steps to reduce their environmental impact, Senate Bill 1 considered these actions and made them the law for all farmers in the western basin of Lake Erie. When asking farmers to change practices, we must also extend those same expectations to other nutrient loaders, so additional regulations have been placed on waste water treatment and dredging across the state.
Research from The Ohio State University and other agricultural experts clearly indicates that farmers should be applying nutrients only after checking the weather. After all, when nutrients leave the field farmers lose money, so retaining that value in their fields is a priority. Farmers have always checked the forecast before cutting hay and the same diligence should be paid to keeping nutrients on the field.
For the many farmers who are already utilizing nutrient-management plans, these new standards will not have a significant impact on these farms. The new guidelines are meant to ensure that all farming practices are in line with the best nutrient management policies.
The new standards set by SB1 ban the application of nutrients when the top two inches of soil are saturated by precipitation and limits when fertilizer can be applied to frozen soil. Nutrient applications are also limited while there is a significant chance of rain.
As of July 3, 2015, these standards are in effect. However, in order to reduce the financial burden on small and medium size livestock farms, these operations are permitted to seek a temporary exemption allowing more time to prepare. Additionally, the Division of Soil and Water can grant permission to apply manure in emergency cases.
The new regulations set forth by Senate Bill 1 are very important for the health of Lake Erie. They have been prescribed based on agricultural research and determined to be the most environmentally sound approaches to farming. Lake Erie is an asset to Ohio, and we all have interests in preserving the health and beauty of the lake for years to come.
As farmers begin to follow these new provisions, they should be consulting with their county NRCS, OSU Extension, and the Division of Soil and Water.
If you would like further in-depth information on Senate Bill 1 and these new guidelines, please visit tinyurl.com/newaglaws
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The writer represents the 84th District in the Ohio House of Representatives.