COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Farmers Union plans to seek changes in a water quality and agriculture-related bill that's pending in the Legislature, the group's president said.
Among other provisions, the bill currently calls for transferring the state's agricultural pollution abatement program — which focuses on livestock farming — from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to the state's agriculture department.
Farm fertilizer runoff has been under increased scrutiny with the increasing number of harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie. The algae growth is fed by phosphorus mainly from the runoff and sewage treatment plants.
Blooms of blue-green algae have been on the rise in western Lake Erie for more than a decade but the issue has taken center stage since early August. That's when toxins produced by algae fouled the water supply for 400,000 people in northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan.
Toledo, which is Ohio's fourth-largest city, was forced to issue a do-not-drink advisory for a little more than two days.
Joe Logan, president of Ohio Farmers Union, said the pending legislation can act as an important part of Ohio's effort to control nutrient runoff and the algal blooms it can feed.
"The information we have to work with today tells us that the there is a problem in the Lake Erie watershed, but not the specific sources or locations," Logan said in a statement.
The organization will seek changes in the Ohio bill to address a so-called "manure loophole" in state regulations where manure distribution from a regulated location is outsourced, he said. The group's proposal would require all operators of confined animal feeding operations or their contractors to report how much manure is delivered to others and where it goes.
The Ohio Farmers Union also wants to allow soil and water conservation districts to share data to help develop strategies for reducing watershed pollution.
The bill is H.B. 490