Friday, August 15, 2014

Ohio fertilizer law aimed at toxic algae blooms has a loophole exempting big manure users

A loophole in Ohio's pending law to require farmers to get fertilizer licenses "exempts many large dairy, hog, and poultry farmers who spread manure on their fields," Karen Schaefer reports for Great Lakes Echo, a service of the Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. The law was created in response to algae blooms found in Lake Erie that threatened water drinking water supplies for 11 million people and made Toledo's water toxic.

Roger Wise uses grass-covered buffer strips to help keep
phosphorous out of local watersheds.(Schaefer photo)
Fourth-generation farmer Roger Wise, former president of the Ohio Farmers Union, told Schaefer, "The original legislation was going to require that all the fields that were going to have the manure applied to, all the fields were going to be labeled, there was going to be a cropping plant and soil tests, and nutrient management – and all of that’s been done away with." 

Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, said the law, which doesn't go into effect until 2017, "requires only chemical fertilizer applicators to be certified, not those who use manure," Schaefer writes. "Shaner wants to see a watershed-specific nutrient management plan for Lake Erie’s western basin. Agricultural scientist Andrew Ward of Ohio State University agrees. But he says fixing the agricultural practices behind Lake Erie’s algae problem won’t come cheap." Ward told her, "We’re probably talking something like a hundred million dollars a year would be needed in Ohio every year, for many, many years." (Read more)

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