Back on July 11, Ohio Governor John Kasich announced Executive Order 2018-09K was being passed. Titled “Taking Steps to Protect Lake Erie,” this new executive order calls on the Ohio Department of Agriculture to consider declaring eight watersheds in the Maumee River Basin as “in distress, due to increased nutrient levels resulting from phosphorus attached to soil sediment.” This issue is now under further study by the state following a 4-2 vote by the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission on July 19.
At first glance, this seems like another case of regulators targeting agricultural practices for water quality issues. However, the truth is this executive order could have been much, much worse for growers and ag retailers, in the Buckeye state and beyond.
According to the Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA), Governor Kasich’s original proposal would have declared or defined fertilizer as “pollutant” under Ohio law. This would have restricted (or made it outright impossible) for growers in the state to apply any crop nutrients without adhering to strict new rules for application. In addition, several observers say the governor was planning to have the executive order get into effect without first consulting other legislators.
“Much of the order requires the normal, traditional rulemaking process with stakeholder input, which is what we’ve pushed so hard for over the last few months,” said OABA in a press release. “We welcome the opportunity to share science-based solutions with our regulators with the goal of continued improvement in the Western Lake Erie Basin.”
In this sense, the agricultural industry “dodged a serious bullet,” say observers to this executive order. “But this should serve as a wake-up call to everyone that makes their living from farming,” said John Oster of The Morral Companies, Morral, OH. “Ohio isn’t the only state where water quality issues have been blamed on agriculture, and more such legislation is always a strong possibility.”