Speaker of the Ohio House Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) held a press conference with the chairs of both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to call on Gov. John Kasich to rescind his executive order on agricultural regulations signed last week and delay the action of the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The executive order seeks to establish numerous policy changes through rule-making rather than the legislative process.
“From a legislative standpoint we are very concerned any time we talk about regulations that make the job of the agricultural community any harder than it already is,” Smith said. “Personally I just want to express my disappointment in the fact that this type of major policy is not moving through the legislature. Part of my disappointment with that is that we have not been sitting on our hands. We have been actively working on this issue and we acknowledge that there is an issue that we need to continue to work on. And we have more work to do.”
Leaders in the House and Senate came together with interested parties in the agricultural community to commend successes in the legislature over the past several years to address agricultural runoff issues and the impact on clean and healthy waterways.
“While there is more work to be done, we have made tremendous strides and continue to work toward a solution,” Smith said. “We invite the Governor and agency directors to come to the table to communicate with all stakeholders, most importantly Ohio farmers, to ensure we create a legislative fix that improves water quality without making farmers’ jobs harder.”
Most recently, the legislature approved Senate Bill 299, which establishes the Clean Lake 2020 Plan. More than $36 million in funding will go toward a variety of programs aimed at supporting Lake Erie and reducing toxic algae. The bill follows previous efforts to prevent nutrient runoff and establish a process for the disposal of dredge material to improve water quality.
“The Ohio House and Senate are calling for the Governor to rescind his executive order regarding additional burdensome and costly regulations on the agricultural industry,” said Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville), chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. “As a farmer myself, we need an opportunity for public input on the issue, especially from the 7,000 farmers in the affected watersheds. I am already impressed by the work they have done to voluntarily improve their practices based on previously passed legislation. We stand ready to join forces with farmers, the administration, and other interested parties to build upon best practices farmers have already implemented to willingly protect Ohio’s lands and waters.”
Many in agriculture were disappointed with the lack of opportunity to weigh in during the executive order process. Hancock County grain and hog farmer Duane Stateler was on hand at the event to talk about his views on water quality and nutrient management based on the work that has been done with his farm. Statelers raise corn, soybeans and wheat on approximately 600 acres in Hancock County and also operate a 7,200 head wean to finish swine operation. The Statelers have committed 243 acres to the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network.
“Unfortunately from what I see from what is being done the few items that look like they could be a real plus to what we can do to stop phosphorus from getting into the lakes are not addressed. One of the reasons they are not addressed is that I reached out to the governor personally, myself, through an aide to try to get him to come see the demonstration farm several months ago, so he could see the work that was being done. I never heard a response back,” Stateler said. “I was disappointed that people who are making these decisions did not visit our farm to see the extensive work we have done in the last two years. We can see trends already and those trends are not addressed in anything I have seen so far.”
More farmers will be on hand to testify Thursday, July 19 at the Soil and Water Commission meeting, which will be held at the Ohio Department of Agriculture in Reynoldsburg. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
The message from farmers will be similar from today.
“Our message is simple. We have to have science based facts before we move forward with any remedies for the Lake,” said Mark Drewes, with Ohio Corn & Wheat, who farms in the Lake Erie watershed. “We have to come together as an agricultural community. We have to do this as a team. This cannot come from the top down. We have done things on our farms from the grassroots up that we feel are working.”