On March 10, the Ohio House unanimously approved House Bill 61 that addresses the ongoing water quality debate and limits fertilizer and manure application in the Lake Erie Watershed.
HB 61 will restrict the application of nutrients on frozen, snow-covered or saturated ground in the Western Lake Erie Basin while allowing farmers the necessary time to come into compliance and setting realistic standards for how farmers can operate under certain weather conditions. In addition, resources will be provided to help farmers comply with the bill’s provisions. The legislation addresses non-agricultural concerns including publicly owned water treatment facilities and dredging issues.
The bill earned the support of the Ohio Farm Bureau for these and other measures included, but it is already drawing criticism from opponents.
“Both chambers of the legislature did exactly what the factory farming industry wanted them to do, and nothing that citizens and environmental groups asked. So essentially, this legislature allowed the very industry that created the problem to determine policy based on what they were willing to do,” said Alison Auciello, Ohio organizer for Food & Water Watch. “The bills, once reconciled and sent to the Governor, will do little more than move manure runoff from one side of the state to the other. The final bill had no resemblance of any requirements for factory farms to manage nutrients to rein in factory farm runoff, freeing them of responsibility. Both houses rejected a provision that would have created an office under the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to manage algae bloom abatement.”