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Kasich tackles lake’s green monster

Tom Jackson • Oct 15, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Fertilizers applied to farm fields to make crops grow can also feed algal blooms when the chemicals wash into Lake Erie.

The Kasich administration is seeking to minimize harmful runoffs from farms by making sure people applying fertilizers to farm fields know what they’re doing.

Ohio Senate Bill 150 would allow the Department of Agriculture to certify people applying fertilizers, making sure they have the proper training, similar to an existing certification system for pesticide application. It would prohibit anyone from applying fertilizer unless the person had been certified or was directly supervised by a certified person.

The bill, introduced this summer, will receive a hearing soon from the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, who has co-authored the bill along with Sen. Bob Peterson, R-Sabina.

Hite said the proposed fertilizer certification process attempts to strike a balance, taking effective action to deal with water pollution while avoiding heavy new regulation of Ohio farmers.    

Farmers are not the sole source of the problem, Hite said. While trying to lessen the amount of phosphorus running off farm fields, state officials have also tried to limit nutrient pollution from industries and from municipal sewer systems.

“We want agriculture to place their foot forward on dealing with this problem,” Hite said.

At the same time, “we’re talking about a large group of people who do not want the government to tell them what to do,” he said.

Hite said he and Peterson have spent weeks discussing the bill with farmers and other interested groups. He said he believes that because of the careful preparation, he’ll have little trouble getting the measure approved and signed into law.

Hite said the bill was requested by three state agencies: the Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio EPA. The Kasich administration has asked the three agencies to work together to fight the algal bloom problem.

Hite said he asked to sponsor the bill because, as chairman of the Agriculture Committee, he could make sure the bill was carefully vetted.

Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who spends much of his time dealing with Lake Erie issues, said he began drafting the bill in July 2012 and eventually agreed to turn it over to Hite.

“We’re just sharing the load,” Gardner said. “We just kind of decided there was plenty of work to do. I’m not a member of the committee hearing the bill.”

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