Sunday, May 25, 2014

Consolidating Manure Management will Cut Down on Bureaucratic Red Tape

Guest Column from State Representative Jim Buchy

Sometimes, government has a tendency of continuing to do things the same way year after year. Enough years go by, and people stop asking questions because, “That’s just the way it’s done.”

That is why I was happy to see House Bill 490 be introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives. One component of House Bill 490 changes some of the regulatory oversight practices of how manure is handled in Ohio.

Specifically, the bill transfers the oversight of manure control from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources via the local Division of Soil and Water Conservation to the Ohio Department of Agriculture except for distressed watersheds such as, Grand Lake St. Marys. Why is that important? As most people know, manure is a valuable asset for the purpose of fertilizing fields. But for obvious reasons, it is critical that it be applied and contained in a proper way, so as to not infiltrate and affect our water supply.

This issue will strongly impact rural areas of the state like in western Ohio. The 84th House District is the largest agriculture-producing district in the state, including heavy livestock and poultry production.

The largest agricultural operations—the permitted, concentrated animal-feeding operations—obviously already have to have strict control over the application of manure. This legislation recognizes the quality management of manure production by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in the Division of Livestock and Environmental Permitting as it relates to large farms. Under the new law management of manure issues will be transferred to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for farms of all sizes with the exception of those located in a distressed watershed.

In western Ohio, we are very familiar with manure management because of the impact it has had on area lakes. In the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed the local Division of Soil and Water Conservation has developed a working relationship with the local agricultural community and in this volatile watershed a decision was made to allow those relationships to continue to work. For that reason every place in Ohio except for the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed in the future will see all manure handling issues dealt with by the experts at the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Moving control of manure management in agriculture to the Ohio Department of Agriculture will reduce bureaucracy by eliminating some of the overlap that had previously existed in the system. Now, this issue, with the exception of distressed watersheds, will be handled by the people who have the utmost expertise and experience needed to make sure manure management in the state of Ohio is run smoothly, efficiently and safely.

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