The Ohio Senate passed House Bill 363 on December 9, the very same day that the bill was voted out of the Senate Agriculture Committee. The bill would transfer water permitting authority of factory farms from the Ohio EPA to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
In the committee hearing, eleven citizens testified in opposition to the bill with many serious concerns about agricultural impacts on public health and the environment. Ohio Department of Agriculture is not in the business of protecting Ohio’s environment. It is unprecedented for environmental permitting and enforcement authority to be given to an agency that is not charged with the goal of environmental protection.
In Ohio, CAFOs generate over 10.5 million tons of manure per year, with some individual facilities creating more waste than medium-sized cities. Concentrated livestock production leads to concentrated manure production. This can result in manure over-application, where it can easily pollute local rivers, streams, and groundwater. Excessive nutrients in the water lead to algal blooms, which deprive the water of oxygen and ultimately kill fish and other organisms. Increased water pollution also means higher costs for municipalities to treat the water.
Our Legislators must consider the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s history and weak enforcement record before handing over authority to regulate water pollution generated by CAFOs. A study by the Environmental Integrity Project reveals ODA’s weak enforcement history under the current regulatory program, along with a failure to address air and water pollution created by factory farms. Ohioans will continue to suffer severe consequences from factory farm pollution without proper guidelines and enforcement. In light of Ohio Department of Agriculture’s weak track record, Ohioans deserve a better equipped agency to protect our drinking water, our quality of life and the state’s natural resources.