Liquid manure may skirt regulation PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL RYAN, Sentinel Farm Editor   
Wednesday, 22 January 2014 10:24
Liquid manure from mega farms is regularly applied to fields as fertilizer. Yet, the proposed Ohio Senate Bill 150 exempts manure from fertilization regulations being considered.
Joe Logan says the degradation of surface water in Lake Erie could even be "life threatening."
Logan, who has served as director of Agricultural Programs at the Ohio Environmental Council and a past president of the Ohio Farmers Union, was one of the featured speakers at Saturday's annual meeting of the Wood County Farmers Union held at the Iron Skillet in North Baltimore.
He said of the bill, which has gone through many revisions, and could face many more: "In a nutshell, it tweaks the definition of fertilizer to exclude livestock manure from the definition of fertilizer."
In Sec. 905.31 on the first page of the bill, section C reads, "'Bulk fertilizer' means any type of fertilizer in solid, liquid, or gaseous state, or any combination thereof, in a nonpackaged form."
Despite meeting all the requirements for fertilizer as defined in the two sections, later manure is exempted, as stated in section E, which reads, "'Fertilizer' means any substance containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium or any recognized plant nutrient element or compound that is used for its plant nutrient content or for compounding mixed fertilizers. Lime, limestone, marl, unground bone, water, and unmanipulated animal and vegetable manures are excepted unless mixed with fertilizer materials."
Logan, himself a farmer and a strong advocate for the rights of farmers, calls the proposed bill "unrealistic."
Tempering his words as it was a public meeting, Logan said, "to exclude manure is not realistic, to be kind."
While he understands there are some good parts of the bill and that encouraging good nutrient management practices is an admirable goal, he says the bill does "not have a lot of teeth."
Logan added, "Generally farmers are good stewards of the land," but clarifies that to require regulations for chemical fertilizers and not manure does not make sense.
He explained that for years, if not decades, farmers have known that phosphorous would stick with the soil where it could be used. New science has discovered that the soluble version does not behave as expected and does run off. That is why he says the concept behind SB 150 being a good one.
However, there is also some question as to the "affirmative defense."
As part of the bill, it allows livestock owners as well as those applying the manure to the fields to put forth in a private civil action for nuisances involving agricultural pollution, an affirmative defense if the person owning, operating, or otherwise responsible for agricultural land or a concentrated animal feeding operation is operating under, and in substantial compliance with, an approved operation and management plan. In other words, a large livestock farm can sell the manure and essentially wash their hands of any responsibility for the manure if they sell it to someone else (a third party) for application to the land.
He summarized that many are seeking to tighten up the bill.
"There is very substantial opening for improvement," Logan said, noting it should include livestock manure and the rules and regulations should also apply to third party operators.
"That is a very serious omission in this bill," he said noting that the measures are divisive as people don't want regulations. However if chemical requirements are laid out, the manure requirements should be similar.
Vickie Askins added to Logan's remarks focusing on the Ohio Department of Agriculture's "manure loophole," which the bill does nothing to close.
Related to the affirmative defense, Askins noted how large-scale livestock operations such as mega dairies can sell their manure to outside parties and thus not be responsible for what happens to the manure when it leaves their farm.
Askins said that to not include animal waste and the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in this legislation is "arrogant."
She cited the lack of land available to properly use the waste and the lack of oversight, soil testing and maps to show where the manure is spread.
"The loophole allows (large farms) to circumvent manure application. We have no authority," Askins said, asking the rhetorical question, "How long are they going to let this go on."
Agreeing with Logan regarding the comparisons of commercial fertilizer and liquid manure, Askins stressed, "Effective manure management is critical and Senate Bill 150 does nothing."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 10:25

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