Ohio bill to curb farm runoff into Lake Erie nears vote

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A bill considered to be a step in the right direction in dealing with toxic algae blooms on Lake Erie is headed for a full Ohio House vote.

The bill would take effect Sept. 30, 2017, and would prohibit farm operations consisting of at least 50 noncontiguous acres from applying synthetic or chemical fertilizers to their land unless it is applied by someone certified by the state or working under the direction of someone who is certified.

The bill won unanimous approval of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday as it did in the full Senate in January. It is designed to begin reducing the runoff of nutrients, particularly phosphorous, from entering the Lake Erie watershed and working their way to the lake, feeding algae growth that is endangering fishing, drinking water, and tourism.

"It is modest improvement, but it is improvement," said Jack Shaner, of the Ohio Environmental Council. "Streams don't know if the phosphorous is coming from fertilizer or manure. Today we got fertilizer. Tomorrow we'll keep going after manure..."

Until certification enforcement begins, the bill encourages agricultural operations to voluntarily adopt nutrient management plans that meet certain minimum standards.

(Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.)

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