Update on Ohio’s fertilizer certification law

The much publicized agricultural nutrients bill (SB 150) has now been signed into law by the Governor. You will recall that conversation for at least the past year has been that soon farmers would be required to have a “certification” or license in order to apply fertilizer. That’s basically what passage of this bill has done.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture is still in the rule-making process and the earliest that rules could be submitted for final approval is August 22, 2014. In the meantime, the basics of what this bill will require are known and as a result, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Department of Agriculture have come to some mutual understandings on how the certification process will proceed, at least for the next three years.

While some details may change between now and the time the certification process commences this fall, below are what we know or believe to be true at this point..

1)      Growers applying inorganic fertilizer to more than 50 acres of agricultural production grown primarily for sale will be required to obtain certification by September 17, 2017. The law defines fertilizer as N, P, and/or K containing materials, and excludes start-up fertilizer applied through the planter.  Ohio joins MD, VA, DE and other states in requiring certification or licensing of fertilizer applicators.

2)      OSU Extension will be the sole provider of certification training during the three-year grace period fertilizer applicators have to obtain certification.

3)      A group of OSU Extension agronomic specialists and educators are presently developing a fertilizer certification program 2-3 hours in length with an accompanying workbook. This program that’s being developed will look a lot like what local growers experienced at the Agronomic Fertility 202 program that was held at the Fairfield County Ag Center last January.

4)      Growers who are licensed private pesticide applicators will receive their fertilizer certification training during the Private Pesticide Applicator Recertification meeting that they choose to attend sometime over the next three years.

a.       Private Pesticide applicators will be able to obtain fertilizer certification at any private PAT session over the next three years. Growers are encouraged to simply obtain this training on the schedule their pesticide recertification comes due. This means that the 2-hour fertilizer certification program will be added to all private applicator recertification meetings next winter and for the next three years making each a total of 5 hours. Those NOT wishing to receive the fertilizer certification will not be required to attend the two hour fertilizer portion of the recertification meeting.

5)      Growers who do not presently have a pesticide license will attend stand-alone, 3-hr OSU Extension fertilizer certification meetings which will be scheduled beginning this winter.

6)      It’s expected there will be a fertilizer recertification requirement, perhaps similar to that of pesticide recertification, however that is not known at this time.

7)      The ODA wants the Certification to be free to growers. While Extension may be required to continue to charge the usual fees for PAT, the ODA wishes the extra 2 hours of fertilizer certification to be offered free-of-charge.

More detail will likely be available late this fall or early winter.

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