Water quality concerns impacting farmers
By Gary Brock
It may seem like a broken record, but once again Ohio farmers seem to be under the gun of state and federal regulators who see the “business of farming” as needing additional controls and mandates.
First, I will not suggest that some, or even many, of these recommendations and changes are not warranted and necessary. Many are. But as 2013 gets under way and Ohio farmers are hoping to concentrate on the new growing season at hand, more and more of their time is being spent reviewing and acting on what new laws and regulations are “coming down the road.”
There are several articles in this month’s ACRES of Southwest Ohio dealing with these changes and proposals. What they will mean for Ohio’s farmers is anyone’s guess.
Perhaps what will have the most impact going forward for our farmers are two words spoken last year by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Those words? “Fix it.”
Our governor was talking about the quality of Ohio’s water — which is none too good. The state’s EPA, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture said one of the problems is the way water runoff from farm fields harm water quality. What gets into the water from these streams is soluble phosphorous, which leads to a number of problems with our water quality.
So these agencies have developed guidelines for farmers to follow to help reduce this runoff. There is an article listing these recommendations in this month’s ACRES.
Last month, to pound home the need for farmers to start changing their fertilizing methods, a letter went out to each and every one of them. The letter was sponsored by about 20 of Ohio’s major agricultural organizations and groups, including OSU Extension, the Farm Bureau Federation and every “producers” group in the state.
Here is how the letter begins: “As a farmer in Ohio you have a significant challenge bearing down quickly. Government, special interest groups, the media and the public all expect you to help clean up the state’s water resources.
If farmers don’t do this on their own, there will be federal and state laws and regulations that will mandate how you farm.
That is why you’re receiving this letter signed by nearly all of Ohio’s agricultural organizations – to make it clear that farmers must take seriously their responsibility to manage nutrients.”
That is an attention-getting start.
If Ohio farmers don’t change how they fertilize their fields and work hard to stop the runoff into Ohio’s streams and lakes, someone soon will come along and make them.
And speaking of that, farmers also are being asked to take a look at new proposed food safety standards and rules that were announced Jan. 4 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The newly proposed Produce Safety rule goes into effect this year, and farmers will have until May 16 to comment before the rule is finalized.
According to OSU, the rule will take effect for some operators within just 60 days.
The proposed Produce Safety rule can be found in the Federal Register, and is one way the government is putting the Food Safety Modernization Act into practice.
These changes just pile on for farmers more of the rules and regulations that may go into effect this year that will affect how they operate.
What does that mean? Usually it can be explained like this — $$$$$$$
While I don’t disagree that many changes and regulations will be necessary, everyone has to understand the underlying result will be an increase in costs to the farmers, and that will mean an increase in cost to us consumers.
(Gary Brock is editor-in-chief of ACRES.)