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Farm Report


Lake Erie  –  Senate Bill 1 : 

Gov. Kasich Signed Senate Bill 1 on April 2


Listed Below this article are highlights of 2014 Senate Bill 150 ( Also Fertilizer | Nutrient Regulation )


Senate Bill 1 goes into effect June 21, 2015.

We are pleased that the final bill is much more balanced and based on science than originally presented.


Credits: The following is from The Ohio Agribusiness Association by Chris Henney

 Here is a brief recap of Senate Bill 1:

The bill bans the application of fertilizer and manure:

  • On snow covered or frozen soil

  • When the top 2 inches of the soil are saturated from precipitation

  • Surface application of fertilizer when the weather forecast calls for a 50 percent or greater chance of precipitation of 1 inch or more in a 12-hour period (½ inch of rain in 24 hours for manure)

Exemptions to fertilizer application restrictions:

  • If injected into the ground

  • If incorporated within 24 hours

  • If applied on a growing crop

Enforcement of provisions:

  • The Director of Chief may apply a civil penalty of no more than $10,000

  • The person must be afforded the opportunity for adjudication

Additional Bill Details:

  • Only applies to the Western Lake Erie Basin (Click here for the map)

  • Fertilizer is defined as nitrogen and phosphorous

  • Manure applicators may apply for an emergency exemption

  • Medium and small animal feeding operations may apply for an exemption of up to two years if they are unable to meet the new expectations but are working toward compliance

  • Requires the state legislature to review the legislation after three years

  • Bans disposal of dredge material into Lake Erie in Maumee Bay after July 1, 2020

  • New monitoring requirements for water treatment facilities



 2014 Senate Bill 150


Here are answers to a few basic questions farmers might have :

 When would the program begin?   The fertilizer application certification program will begin on September 30 on the third year following the law’s effective date.

Who would have to be certified?  Someone who applies “fertilizer” for agricultural production on land more than 50 acres in size would have to be certified by ODA as a fertilizer applicator, or would have to be acting under the instruction of a certified fertilizer applicator.

Would there be any exemptions from the program?  Those who would make applications of fertilizer on land parcels of 50 acres or less would be exempt from the certification requirement.  The bill would also allow the ODA director to establish additional exemptions for certain persons or certain “types of cultivation.”

What fertilizers would the program cover?  Under the bill, “fertilizer” means any substance containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium or any recognized plant nutrient element or compound that is used for its plant nutrient content or for compounding mixed fertilizers.  The definition of fertilizer does notinclude lime, manure and residual farm products such as bedding, wash waters, waste feed, silage drainage and certain dead animal composts, unless those are mixed with fertilizer materials or distributed with a guaranteed analysis.

What would the certification program involve?  The Senate’s bill directs that the program must educate applicants on the time, place, form, amount, handling, and application of fertilizer—commonly referred to as the “4-Rs” of nutrient stewardship (right fertilizer source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place).  The bill also states that the program must “serve as a component of a comprehensive state nutrient reduction strategy addressing all sources of relevant nutrients” and must “support generally practical and economically feasible best management practices.”

Would there be a certification fee?  The bill allows the ODA to establish a fee for applicants who seek certification, but the fee may not exceed the fee charged for the state’s pesticide applicator certification program.  Additionally, the bill exempts persons who hold an Ohio commercial or private pesticide applicator’s license from paying an additional application fee if they also seek fertilizer application certification.

Other important provisions in Senate Bill 150 include:

Record keeping requirements.  Certified applicators would have to maintain fertilizer application records for at least three years from the date of a fertilizer application.  The records must include the date, place and rate of application, an analysis of the fertilizer and the name of the person applying the fertilizer.  Applicators would not be required to submit the records to ODA on a regular basis, but would have to make the records available upon a request by the agency.

Emergency revocation and suspension powers.  The bill would allow the ODA director to immediately deny, suspend, revoke, refuse to renew or modify a fertilizer applicator certificate if there is “substantial reason to believe the certificate holder recklessly applied fertilizer in such a manner that an emergency exists that presents a clear and present danger to human or animal health.”

Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans.  The bill would allow a person who owns or operates agricultural land to develop a voluntary nutrient management plan in collaboration with Ohio State University, the Soil and Water Conservation District or the Natural Resource Conservation Service or its certified providers and submit the plan for approval by the Soil and Water Conservation District.  A voluntary nutrient management plan would be an important critieria for immunity from civil liability, discussed below.

Legal Defense against Civil Actions.   Under the bill, a person sued in a claim involving liability for an application of fertilizer would have a legal defense that would prevent liability upon showing these three criteria:

  • The person is a certified fertilizer applicator or under the control of a certified applicator;
  • The person properly maintained fertilizer application records as required by the certification program;
  • The fertilizer was applied according to and in substantial compliance with an approved voluntary nutrient management plan.

Credit:  The above Senate Bill 150 analysis is by Peggy Kirk Hall ,  Ohio State University ; Agricultural Law.




Ohio Senate Bill 150, Senate Bill 1, House Bill 61


We know that Phosphorus only moves a fraction of an inch in the soil profile each year.


The Question :

How does an extremely stable nutrient move from the soil profile and become a pollutant in Lake Erie ?


The Answer :

It Doesn’t move out of the soil profile.   It moves from the surface of the soil.

Phosphorus on or near the the surface of the soil can dissolve in soil surface water in heavy rain events.

The surface water is then laden with dissolved Phosphorus.

Some of this water then moves off of the surface of the field into water ways.


The Research Surprises :

  1. More phosphorus moves from the field through drainage tile than with water flowing over the soil surface !
  2. The phosphorous going out of drainage tile is also originating from the surface of the soil !
  3. Unmodified No-till enhances the Phosphorous loss through field drainage tile.
  4. The surface phosphorus is moving through preferential water flow channels down through the soil to the tile.

These preferential water flows are created by earthworm holes and deteriorated plant root channels.


The Solution:

Next Week we will list the regulations and fines in the new Ohio Law , Senate Bill 1

 The practices on “Our Focus” page of this website meets or exceeds the requirements of the new law.



Ohio Senate Bill 150, Senate Bill 1, House Bill 61


Only 40% of the dissolved  phosphorus flow into lake Erie is from Agriculture.

But it is from such a large land mass that only a small loss per acre is needed to create Agriculture’s 40%.

The issue is that the level of phosphorus concentration on and close to the soil surface has been increasing.

This ironically has occurred because in the last 20 years farmers have increasingly adopted practices to protect the environment. These practices also include less soil tillage, which provides less disturbed soil and more residue on the surface.

This is all good !!  It promotes natural soil microbial and bacterial and earthworm activity creating a healthier soil. Also the  residue on the surface protects the soil and reduces soil erosion.

Everyone knew that these practices were also creating a higher level of plant nutrients close to the surface of the soil.

Even though the surface residue reduced the phosphorus laden soil leaving the field , at these higher nutrient levels, some phosphorus from the soil surface was dissolving and leaving the field in the water.

Dissolved Phosphorus is the only form of phosphorus that the plants can use, so we absolutely need it for plant survival.

But the real surprise is that in many cases more phosphorus is leaving the fields though field drainage tile than over the soil surface !!

I will explain next week how this process occurs and what needs to be done .



Ohio Senate Bill 150, Senate Bill 1, House Bill 61

Last year I wrote about the coming regulations on Farms in response to the Algae blooms on Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Mary in west central Ohio.

Last summers toxic drinking water in Toledo highlighted the problem.

Although Toledo’s water problem was a result of the Toledo Water Department being slow to treat their water, the algae issue was front page news all over the country.

Most of the lectures this year at the CTC conference covered at least some aspect of the issue.

After years of research, the cause has been identified as excess Dissolved Phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

Agriculture is responsible for about 40% of the total flow, with 60% coming from Cities and private homes.

Over the last 20 years Farmers have dramatically reduced the amount of Phosphorus applied to farm fields.

And farmers are adopting more techniques to reduce Phosphorus and other nutrient displacement from the soil.

Soil scientist have believed that the only way Phosphorus could leave farm fields was by the physical movement of soil particles, that had phosphorus attached to them, flowing with runoff water into water tributaries.

This belief was strengthened by the knowledge that Phosphorus is very immobile in the soil and moved very little even after heavy rain or prolonged  saturated soil periods.

Resent research has discovered that the increased Phosphorus flow into the waterways and then into Lake Erie, is from Dissolved Phosphorus, which was previously thought to not have the ability to move out of the soil profile.

Even though an extremely small amount of dissolved Phosphorus is leaving an acre of Farm land each year, there is a huge area of land mass from which the water flows into the western end of Lake Erie.

From Ontario; Canada, Michigan ,Indiana and Ohio.

The Maumee River carries the most volume of Phosphorus into Lake Erie from North West Ohio and North East Indiana.

The Sandusky River has a lower volume of Phosphorus flowing into Lake Erie.

The Sandusky River watershed includes portions of Seneca and Northern Crawford County.

The water in northern Crawford County flows to Lake Erie in the Sandusky River Watershed. And the south portion of the county flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The watershed dividing line in the  east is close to North Robinson, going west through the middle of Bucyrus. Then the Sandusky Watershed flows North West , on the east  side of the Maumee Watershed,  to Lake Erie.

There is much more to cover with you about this issue and coming regulations.

I will write more in the coming weeks.




This is a completely new program with many choices that are difficult to analyze. We have been attending meetings and doing analytical studies.

The purpose of the program, as in the past programs, is to help the Tenant or Farm Operator in case of a disaster type event occurring with grain prices or grain production. ie: bad weather or extra low prices

The Land Owner and Tenant – Operator will both need to agree and sign to changes in the base acres and yields.   We do have crop insurance records from the needed years to use for the actual acres and yields.

Base acre and yield changes deadline is Feb 27.

The Tenant – Operator can sign for all other parts of the program.

There are 3 program choices.   PLC , ARC-CO , ARC-IC

The decision comes down to choosing between PLC (Price protection) and ARC-CO ( Limited Price protection coupled with Limited yield protection).

We have crop insurance and ARC-IC provides no added value.

The choice between PLC and ARC-CO lies in your view of future grain prices.

Our studies indicate that PLC offers the most risk protection in a low grain price market.

ARC-CO  offers more protection in a moderate price market or if the Fed changes make  Crop Insurance unaffordable.

This is the only chance to sign in the program, for the life of the program.