Ohio Agricultural Fertilizer Certification deadline looming

A strong coalition consisting of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), The Ohio State University and several state agricultural organizations are encouraging farmers to attend training courses for the Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification Program.

Signed into law by Governor John R. Kasich in May 2014, Ohio Senate Bill 150 created a first of its kind certification program for applying commercial fertilizer in Ohio. Focusing on science-based practices, the bill requires farmers applying commercial fertilizer to more than 50 acres to attend a course on fertilizer application.

“Fertilizer Certification Training is important for the farming community in a number of different ways,” said David T. Daniels, ODA Director. “Farmers and agriculturalists want to be part of a good economy and we know that we produce food and fiber for all of the United States and other parts of the world. Lake Erie is extremely important to that production and we want to be sure that we are as productive as we can possibly be, but we need to also be sure we take the environment into consideration as do that.”

After over two years of meetings, the Fertilizer Certification Program to date has certified almost 12,000 farmers and those that apply nutrients to farm fields and there are about 6,000 to 10,000 more people that need to become certified before the deadline this fall.

“The reason that three years was given is because that coincides with the time that pesticide certification happens in Ohio,” Daniels said. “It has given farmers an opportunity to get all of their training at once and to get those new best management practices under their belts.”

OSU Extension will hold numerous training sessions across all regions of the state this winter, with 80 counties holding meetings between now and April. The training sessions focus on best management practices and the latest research to keep nutrients in the field and available to crops while reducing nutrients leaving the field.

“ODA is a regulatory agency and not a punitive agency, so our goal is to help people come into compliance and with our partners at Ohio State offering more than ample opportunities to get trained that shouldn’t be a problem,” Daniels said. “With that said, we do have a responsibility to make sure that Senate Bill 150 and its legislative intent is met and if we do find people that are applying without being certified we are going to have to take action against those folks to bring them into compliance and we have plenty of tools in our toolbox to do that.”

Warnings will be given to those not certified by the Sept. 30 deadline and those that receive warnings will also be asked to stop applying fertilizer until their certification is complete. In the most extreme cases of non-compliance, misdemeanor charges could be filed.

Of the farmers that have taken the certification course, 93% said that it improved their knowledge of certification and near all of the participants said that learned something through the process that helps them with their production practices, saves them money and helps them through environmental stewardship.

For more information on certification training, farmers can visit www.nutrienteducation.osu.edu. Once there, farmers can learn more about the training and even sign up for classes in their area.

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