The Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 150 (SB 150) which would require farmers to take certification courses to apply fertilizer. The certification requirements would apply to all farmers fertilizing 50 acres or more.
Proponents of the bill say farmers are causing algae problems in Lake Erie and other area lakes by misapplying fertilizer. They assert forcing farmers to take courses on fertilizer application will reduce algae in the lakes. The bill does not apply to the application of manure.
The Ohio Senate will likely vote on the bill in May.
Farmers Cooperated with Legislators
Tony Seegers, director of state policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau, said farmers recognize the public expects them to be good stewards of the environment. Seegers said the Farm Bureau worked with legislators crafting the bill.
“We worked closely with lawmakers and made sure SB 150 had an educational component within the bill. As a result, farmers will learn the Four Rs: Right place, right amount, right source, and right time,” said Seegers.
“No one likes to be regulated, but this bill contains similar requirements that already exist in the pesticide application bill. It also protects farmers who are certified to apply fertilizer from frivolous lawsuits,” he explained.
Farmers Not Sole Contributors
Tadd Nicholson, executive director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, said farmers are willing to take extra steps to safeguard the environment, but it is also important to recognize other contributors to algae blooms.
“It is a big step for the farmers to be regulated, but it's worth noting that one sector alone will not be able to solve this problem,” said Nicholson. “It has got to be all hands on deck, with other sectors involved as well.”
“It is hard to think that farmers would intentionally do something to harm the land they work by putting phosphorus runoff in lakes. That's where the educational aspect of the certification comes in, educating them in the Four Rs. We have to ask: How are we going to increase the amount of food we produce while protecting the environment?” Nicholson observed.
Kenneth Artz (firstname.lastname@example.org ) writes from Dallas, Texas.