House Bill 276
State Representative Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) and State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) today announced that the Ohio House of Representatives voted to concur with the Senate amendments on House Bill 276. The bill will now become law pending the signature of Governor Kasich.
House Bill 276, which was jointly sponsored by Buchy and Gentile, clarifies the definition of agriculture as it pertains to Ohio zoning laws for on-farm energy production facilities, such as on-farm anaerobic digesters—a change that will enable farmers to use byproducts for bio-energy production without cumbersome regulations that currently deter this environmentally friendly activity.
The bill also defines algaculture—the farming of algae—in the Ohio Revised Code, clarifying it as an agricultural process under Ohio law.
“The combination of on-farm energy production and algaculture will reduce nutrient run-off from our farms,” Buchy said. “Using the products we have available at our farms will solve problems that occur when there is a shortage of storage for farm byproducts, hence assisting farmers with manure management programs.”
Among the amendments included by the Ohio Senate is the creation of a legislative task force to study the use and impact of anaerobic digesters, including how they are regulated in other states, their environmental impact, and how state laws governing them affect agriculture, residents and local government.
“The creation of an anaerobic digester task force will allow policy makers to continue shaping a public policy to benefit farming opportunities that help the environment,” Gentile said. “The potential for the expansion of the digester industry and algae industry in this state is expansive. This is about jobs, and the outcome of these policy changes will result in more jobs for this state.”
Algae thrive off phosphorous and other minerals along with heat. These components will all be available on farms as a result of evolving technology. When harvested from controlled and natural water sources algae can be turned into fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals and many other products.
House Bill 276 will allow farmers to use anaerobic digesters as a part of a nutrient management plan or to consume any other agricultural organic byproduct. Up to 50 percent of the feedstock for the digester may originate from off-farm production processes. The advancements of algaculture and anaerobic digesters are expected to aid in the cleanup of Ohio water and protect natural habitats by aiding in the removal of phosphorous and other nutrients.
“With these changes to the Ohio Revised Code, farmers throughout Ohio will be able to expand their business to the new frontiers of agriculture,” Representative Buchy said. “It will also significantly aid our communities in keeping unwanted nutrients out of Grand Lake St. Marys.”
Senate Bill 281
The legislation in Senate Bill 281 would give more Ohio farmers an opportunity to receive reduced-interest loans to offset their operating expenses with the Ag Link program. The bill pass unanimously in the Ohio Senate.
“What that bill does would increase the amount the state treasury sets aside each year for the program from $125 million to $165 million. It would also increase the amount that can be loaned to an applicant, from $100,000 to $150,000, said Beth Vanderkooi of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.