Environmental

Farm field covered in snow with pine trees and sunset in background
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, February 19th, 2024

Co-authored by Glen Arnold, OSU Extension Field Specialist in Manure and Nutrient Management

This week’s snow was a reminder that we’re still in the middle of winter in Ohio, with more cold weather yet to come.  Winter weather is a challenge for those who handle manure, and it’s equally challenging to know the laws for applying manure on frozen and snow covered ground.  Those laws vary according to several important factors:  whether ground is frozen or snow covered, whether a farm is operating under a permit, and the geographical location of the land application.  Here’s a summary of the different winter application rules and standards in effect this winter.

What is frozen ground?  Ohio’s rules don’t define the term frozen ground, but generally, ground is considered frozen if you cannot inject manure into it or cannot conduct tillage within 24 hours to incorporate the manure into the soil.

Farms with Permits.  Farms with permits from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) or Ohio EPA operate under different rules than other manure applications in Ohio, and they cannot apply manure in the winter unless it is an extreme emergency.  Movement to other suitable storage is usually the selected alternative.  Several commercial manure applicators have established manure storage ponds in recent years to help address this issue. 

Applications in the Grand Lake St. Marys (GLSM) watershed.  There is a winter manure application ban from December 15 to March 1 for the GLSM watershed,  8ODA has the authority to allow an application, but that is not likely during the winter period.  After March 1, applications on frozen ground or ground covered in more than one inch of snow may occur only if the manure is injected or incorporated within 24 hours of surface application. The rule is in OAC 901:13-1-11

Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Map

Applications in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) watershed.  In those parts of western Ohio that are in the WLEB watershed, below, the House Bill 1 restrictions established in 2016 are still in effect.  The law prohibits any manure application on frozen ground.  Applications are permissible on snow-covered soil if the manure is injected into the ground or incorporated within twenty-four hours of surface application.  The law is in ORC 939.08.

Western Lake Erie Basin

Other parts of Ohio.  It’s important to note that the NRCS Nutrient Management Conservation Practice Standard Code 590 (NRCS 590) now applies statewide in Ohio (but does not replace the GLSM and WLEB restrictions).  NRCS 590 was revised in 2020 and states that the surface application of manure on frozen and snow-covered soil is not acceptable unless it is an emergency.  An emergency is a temporary situation created by unforeseen causes and only after all other options have been exhausted. In this emergency situation only, limited quantities of liquid manure may be applied to address manure storage limitations only until non-frozen soils are available for manure application. The Ohio Department of Agriculture will enforce NRCS 590 in counties outside of GLSM and WLEB only if there is a manure discharge from the field. If a citation is issued for a discharge, liability for the discharge will be based on the 590 standards.

All applications of liquid manure to frozen and snow-covered soils must be documented in the producers’ records and must be applied in accordance with ALL of the following criteria:

  • The rate of application shall not exceed the lesser of 5,000 gallons/acre or P removal for the next crop.
  • Applications are to be made on land with at least 90% surface residue cover (cover crop, good quality hay or pasture field, all corn grain residue remaining after harvest, all wheat residue cover remaining after harvest).
  • Manure shall not be applied on more than 20 contiguous acres. Contiguous areas for application are to be separated by a break of at least 200 feet.
  • Applications should be in areas of the field with the lowest risk of nutrient transport such as areas furthest from streams, ditches, waterways, and with the least amount of slope.
  • Application setback distances must be a minimum of 200 feet from grassed waterways, surface drainage ditches, streams, surface inlets, water bodies and 300 feet from all wells, springs and public surface drinking water intakes. This distance may need to be increased due to local conditions.
  • For fields exceeding 6% slope, manure shall be applied in alternating strips 60 to 200 feet wide generally on the contour, or in the case of contour strips on the alternating strips.

Stockpiling.  For farmers with solid manure, stockpiling could be an option. There are two different types of stockpiles: short-term and long-term.

The short-term stockpile standards are in NRCS Field Office Technical Guide 318,  Short Term Storage of Animal Waste and Byproducts Standard (“NRCS 318”). Essentially, short- term stockpile is a pile of solid manure being kept temporarily in one or more locations. It is considered a temporary stockpile as long as the pile is kept at the location for no more than 180 days and stockpiled in the field where the manure will be applied. Setback distances listed in NRCS 318 should be followed to prevent discharge to waters of the state. There are multiple recommendations listed in NRCS 318 that speak to location, timing, and preventative measures to use while stockpiling the manure short term.

The long-term stockpile standards are in NRCS Field Office Technical Guide 313 Waste Storage Facility Standard (“NRCS 313”). A long-term stockpile is directly related to solid manure being piled and kept at a facility for longer than 180 days at a permanent location. It is recommended that all permanent long term storage stockpiles follow the guidelines in NRCS 313 with the utilization of a stacking facility and the structural designs of fabricated structures. A stacking facility can be open, covered or roofed, but specific parameters should be in place to prevent manure runoff from the site—these recommendations are in NRCS 313.

Check with your SWCD office.  Regardless of where you are in Ohio, it’s probably best to check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District office before considering winter manure application in Ohio. The rules have changed, and you should become aware of those that affect your operation in your area.

 

 

First page of U.S. EPA existing stocks order for dicamba products.
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, February 15th, 2024

A federal court decision last week vacated the registrations of dicamba products XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium for over-the-top applications on soybean and cotton crops, making the use of the products unlawful (see our February 12, 2024 blog post).  The decision raised immediate questions about whether the U.S. EPA would exercise its authority to allow producers and retailers to use "existing stocks" of dicamba products they had already purchased.  Yesterday, the U.S. EPA answered those questions by issuing an Existing Stocks Order that allows the sale and use of existing stocks of the products that were packaged, labeled, and released for shipment prior to the federal court decision on February 6, 2024 For Ohio, the EPA's order allows the sale and distribution of existing stocks until May 31, 2024 and the use of existing stocks until June 30, 2024.

Here is the EPA's order:

  1. Pursuant to FIFRA Section 6(a)(1), EPA hereby issues an existing stocks order for XtendiMax® with VaporGrip® Technology (EPA Reg. No. 264-1210), Engenia® Herbicide (EPA Reg. No. 7969-472), and A21472 Plus VaporGrip® Technology (Tavium® Plus VaporGrip® Technology) (EPA Reg. No. 100-1623). This order will remain in effect unless or until subsequent action is taken. The issuance of this order did not follow a public hearing. This is a final agency action, judicially reviewable under FIFRA § 16(a) (7 U.S.C. §136n). Any sale, distribution, or use of existing stocks of these products inconsistent with this order is prohibited.
  2. Existing Stocks. For purposes of this order, “existing stocks” means those stocks of previously registered pesticide products that are currently in the United States and were packaged, labeled, and released for shipment prior to February 6, 2024 (the effective date of the District of Arizona’s vacatur of the dicamba registrations). Pursuant to FIFRA section 6(a)(1), this order includes the following existing stocks provisions:

a.  Sale or Distribution by the Registrants. As of February 6, 2024, sale or distribution by the registrants of these products is prohibited, except for the
purposes of proper disposal or to facilitate lawful export.
b.  Sale or Distribution by Persons other than the Registrants. Persons other than the registrants, including but not limited to co-ops and commercial distributors, who are already in possession of these products as of February 6, 2024, may sell or distribute these products until the end date for sale and distribution of existing stocks identified in Table 1; except that such persons may distribute these products after the date identified in Table 1 solely for purposes of proper disposal, lawful export, or to facilitate return to the manufacturer.
c.  Distribution or Sale by Commercial Applicators. Notwithstanding paragraph 2.b, for the purpose of facilitating use no later than the relevant end date for use of existing stocks identified in Table 1, distribution or sale of existing stocks of these dicamba products that are in the possession of commercial applicators is permitted
until the relevant end date for use in Table 1.
d.  Use of Existing Stocks. As of the date of this order, use of XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium is permitted until the relevant date identified in Table 1, provided that such use of existing stocks is consistent in all respects with the previously approved labeling accompanying the product.

What happens next? 

The Existing Stocks Order addresses dicamba over-the-top applications for the current growing season, but it's not the end of the dicamba controversy.  One potential next step could come from the petitioners in the federal case that vacated the dicamba product registrations, Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA.  The petitioners could file a motion asking the Court to review the Existing Stocks Order--an action that took place in the previous dicamba cancellation case, National Family Farm Coaltion v. EPA (Monsanto).  The petitioners in that case unsuccessfully sought an Emergency Motion to enforce the vacatur and hold the EPA Administrator in contempt for issuing an Existing Stocks Order.  A second next step that may yet play out is an appeal of the recent federal decision by either the EPA or the dicamba product manufacturers--those parties have 30 days from the February 6 decision date to file an appeal.  At least one thing is clear at this point:  the long-term future of dicamba over-the-top products will continue to exist in a state of uncertainty.

Read the full text of the EPA's Existing Stocks Order.

Field of soybeans
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Monday, February 12th, 2024

A federal district court in Arizona has vacated the registrations for dicamba products XtendiMax, Engenia, and Tavium, finding that the U.S. EPA violated pesticide registration procedures when it approved the product registrations in 2020.  As a result of the decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, the dicamba products are no longer legally authorized for use and application in the U.S.  Although there will likely be appeal of the decision, the new ruling creates uncertainty over the use of dicamba products for the upcoming crop season.

History of the case

If the court’s ruling feels familiar, that’s because it is a repeat of a 2020 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA (Monsanto).  In that case, the court vacated the first “conditional” dicamba product registrations granted by the EPA in 2018.  The court found that the EPA had “substantially understated” and failed to acknowledge the risks of dicamba’s volatility and its effects on non-users.  The EPA then cancelled the product registrations in June of 2020, but allowed producers to use “existing stocks” of already purchased products to apply the products until July 31, 2020.  The Ohio Department of Agriculture shortened that timeline in Ohio due to growing conditions within the state, prohibiting applications of dicamba after June 30, 2020.

Bayer, BASF, and Syngenta immediately revised the label application instructions and restrictions for their dicamba products and resubmitted their registration requests to the EPA. In October of 2020, the EPA granted the applications and issued “unconditional” five-year registrations for over-the-top applications (OTT) of the products on cotton and soybean crops.  The EPA did not provide a notice and opportunity for the public to submit comments before it made the registration decision. The National Family Farm Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Center for Food Safety, and Center for Biological Diversity filed the current lawsuit, claiming that the EPA violated federal law by granting the unconditional registrations without a notice and comment period.

The court’s reasoning in this case

EPA’s error.  The primary basis for the court’s decision is the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Section 136a(c)(4), which contains the notice and comment requirement for registration of a “new use” of a pesticide or herbicide.  It states that the EPA:

“. . . shall publish in the Federal Register. . . a notice of each application for registration of any pesticide that contains any new active ingredient or if it would entail a changed use pattern. The notice shall provide for a period of 30 days in which any Federal agency or any other interested person may comment.”

FIFRA further states that a “new use” of a product means, in part, “any additional use pattern that would result in a significant increase in the level of exposure, or a change in the route of exposure, to the active ingredient of man or other organisms.”

The EPA took the position that it did not have to provide the FIFRA notice and a comment period because the 2020 registration requests were not applications for a “new use” since EPA had previously approved the products.  The court strongly disagreed, however, emphasizing the previous court decision that had vacated those registrations because the EPA had failed to fully consider the risks of the products.  The EPA’s conclusion that the 2020 registrations were not for a new use “is so implausible that the Court cannot ascribe it to be a mere difference in view,” the court stated.  Stakeholders who would be affected by the dicamba registrations should have had an opportunity to “meaningfully weigh in during the decision-making process before EPA concluded whether OTT dicamba has unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” said the court.

Remedy for the error.  The court explained that upon finding an agency has violated federal law, the presumed remedy a court must grant is to vacate the agency’s action.  The law requires that only in limited circumstances, when equity requires it, should a court remand without vacating an agency decision.  There are two factors the law requires a court to review in determining the remedy:  the seriousness of the agency’s error and the disruptive consequences of vacating the agency’s decision.  The court’s next step was to review those two factors and determine whether it should remand the issue with or without vacating the dicamba registrations.

Examining the first factor, the court concluded that the EPA’s error was “very serious” because it was likely that, had the agency considered field studies, data, and other information that would have been submitted during the comment period, the EPA’s registration decision likely would have differed from the decision it made to grant the five-year unconditional registration.  The history of the dicamba registrations were important to the court, and the judge noted that there had not been a notice and comment period for stakeholders who were opposed to approving dicamba products since 2016, when the EPA considered the original registration.  The court reiterated a long list of field studies, incident reports, and data generated since 2016 that the agency could have considered had it provided a comment period.  Noting that the EPA was “highly confident that control measures would eliminate dicamba offsite movement to only a minimal effect,” the court pointed to years of incident reports on dicamba offsite movement and concluded:

“This Court believes hearing from all stakeholders is likely to change the OTT dicamba registrations at least from unconditional to conditional, with data gathering requirements reinstated. Hearing from non-users of OTT dicamba may change the EPA’s circular approach to assessing costs for risks from OTT dicamba offsite movement. Instead of simply concluding there is no risk and, therefore, no costs to these stakeholders, EPA is likely to include the costs to these stakeholders when balancing the risks and benefits for OTT dicamba. Accordingly, the Court finds the EPA’s procedural error to unconditionally issue the “new use” 2020 dicamba registration, without notice and comment, was serious.”

The court then examined the second factor, the disruptive consequences of vacating the agency’s decision. The court recognized the benefits of dicamba products to the agricultural industry and that growers, through no fault of their own, would be in the difficult position of finding legal herbicides to protect their crops if the dicamba registrations were vacated.  Nevertheless, the court agreed with the reasoning in the previous dicamba case, National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA (Monsanto), that the seriousness of the EPA’s failure to assess the risks and costs for non-users of dicamba warranted vacating the registration despite the disruptive consequences.

What happens next?

There are two issues to watch now in the wake of the court’s decision. First is whether the EPA and the dicamba manufacturers will appeal the federal district court’s decision.  The appeal would go the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same appellate court that reviewed the decision in the first dicamba appeal, National Family Farm Coalition v. EPA (Monsanto).  An appeal would put the federal district court’s decision on hold.

If there is not an appeal, the second issue to watch for is how the EPA and state agencies will direct the use of existing stocks of dicamba products.  The EPA could use its authority to allow continued use of existing stocks of dicamba products until a certain date, as it did in the previous case.  If the EPA does issue an existing stocks order, states could also address the extent of existing stocks use within their borders, as Ohio did in the previous case.

Follow the Ohio Ag Law Blog for continued legal information about Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA and review the federal district court’s opinion through this link.  Ohio growers should also refer to information from OSU’s Weed Science Extension Specialist, Dr. Allyssa Essman, available through OSU’s C.O.R.N. newsletter.

 

Ohio capitol lit with red and green lights and a lampost wrapped in garland
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, December 21st, 2023

Written by Ellen Essman, J.D., OSU CFAES Government Relations

Just like there won’t be snow flurries on Christmas this year, there was not a flurry of activity at the Statehouse over the last few months. That being said, we will be carefully following several ag-related bills that progressed in committees but have not yet been passed by the full body, as the calendar turns to 2024. Here’s a summary of the bills we’re watching. 

H.B. 162—Agriculture Designations. H.B. 162 was introduced by Representatives Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) and Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) on May 5, 2023, and was passed by the House in October, and had its first hearing in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on December 5. The bill would designate the following days and weeks to honor Ohio Agriculture:

  • March 21 of each year as “Agriculture day;”
  • The week beginning on the Saturday before the last Saturday of each February through the last Saturday in February as “FFA Week;”
  • October 12 of each year as “Farmer’s Day;” and
  • The week ending with the second Saturday of March as “4-H Week.”

H.B. 347—Farming Equipment Taxes. This bill was introduced by Representative Don Jones (R-Freeport) and referred to the House Ways and Means Committee in early December.  The bill would change the way farmers claim a tax exemption on certain purchases. 

Currently, when an Ohioan engaged in farming, agriculture, horticulture, or floriculture is buying a product for “agricultural use,” they must provide the seller with an exemption certificate. This certificate comes from the Ohio Department of Taxation and relieves the seller of the obligation to collect the sales tax on behalf of the state.  However, the Department of Taxation can later determine that the purchase does not qualify for exemption, and then the farmer would be expected to pay the tax. 

H.B. 347 would slightly alter this current way of doing things when it comes to the purchase of certain vehicles and trailers.  Under the bill, the purchaser could receive an agricultural use exemption for taxes on these vehicles if the purchaser shows the seller copies of the purchaser’s Schedule F—the federal income tax profit of loss from farming form—for three most recent preceding years. Alternatively, a farmer could obtain a certificate from the Department of Taxation verifying that they have filed a Schedule F for three years in lieu of providing the forms directly to the seller.  Notably, the bill states that “no other documentation or explanation shall be required by the vendor or the tax commissioner” to prove that the purchase qualifies for the agricultural use exemption.

The following vehicles and trailers would be included under the bill:

  • Trailers, excluding watercraft trailers;
  • Utility vehicles, (vehicles with a bed, principally for the purpose of transporting material or cargo in connection with construction, agricultural, forestry, grounds maintenance, land and garden, materials handling, or similar activities);
  • All-purpose vehicles, (vehicles designed primarily for cross-country travel on land and water, or on multiple types of terrain, but excluding golf carts);
  • Compact tractors (garden tractors, small utility tractors, and riding mowers).

H.B. 364—Agriculture (seed sharing). House Bill 364 was introduced in the House by representatives Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) and Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) on December 14.  The bill would allow the Ohio Prairie Association to distribute milkweed seeds non-commercially to its members, with the intent of promoting habitats for pollinators like monarch butterflies.

The bill would legally define “non-commercial seed sharing” as the distribution or transfer of ownership of seeds with no compensation or remuneration.  Also included in the definition are a list of situations that are not considered “non-commercial seed sharing,” including when:

  • The seeds are given as compensation of work or services rendered;
  • The seeds are collected outside of Ohio;
  • The seeds are patented, treated, or contain noxious weed species or invasive plants.

H.B. 364 also includes a definition of “seed library,” which it defines as a non-profit, governmental, or cooperative organization or association to which both of the following apply:

  • It is established for the purpose of facilitating the donation, exchange, preservation, and dissemination of seeds among the seed library’s members or the general public.
  • The use, exchange, transfer, or possession of seeds acquired by or from the non-profit governmental, or cooperative organization or association are obtained free of charge.

The bill would further exempt non-commercial seed sharing for the purposes of pollinator conservation, creating and conserving native habitats, and operation of a seed library from labeling, advertising, handling, and sales restrictions under Ohio law.

To further the goal of promoting pollinators and habitats, H.B. 364 would make changes to the requirements for maintaining toll roads, railroads, or electric railways. Current law requires managers of such thoroughfares to destroy a number of noxious weeds along the roadway or in right of ways. The bill would no longer require the destruction of Russian thistle, Canadian thistle, common thistle, wild lettuce, wild mustard, wild parsnip, ragweed, milkweed, or ironweed. 

 Ohio Senate chambers at the Statehouse in Columbus Ohio
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

The holiday season isn't distracting the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee from considering three legislative proposals concerning scenic rivers, small beer brewers, and state agriculture day designations.  On December 12, the committee will hear testimony on all three bills.  Here’s a summary of the proposals.

S.B. 156 - Designation of wild, scenic, and recreational rivers.  Senators Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and Bob Hackett (R-London) introduced this legislation to revise portions of the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program that were raising concerns from private property owners.  The committee will hold its fourth hearing on the bill on December 12.  The proposal makes the following changes to the Ohio Scenic River Law:

  • Clarifies that the designation of a Wild, Scenic or Recreational River does not grant authority to oversee private activities on private property or enter private land within the river area to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), which administers the program. 
  • States that the agency has management and oversight of lands along a designated river only for those lands the state owns.
  • Requires ODNR to adopt rules to govern the use, visitation, and protection of scenic river lands and to establish facilities and improvements within the areas necessary for visitation, use, restoration, and protection of the lands.
  • Clarifies that certain public entities must obtain approval from the ODNR Director to perform certain construction activities within 1,000 feet of a wild, scenic, or recreational river. 
  • Extends the public comment period following the announcement of intent to designate a new river from 30 days to 60 days.

S.B. 138 – Alcohol Franchise Law exemption for small brewers.  This bill introduced by Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) aims to help small brewers who annually manufacture less than 250,000 barrels (7.75 million gallons) of beer.  The bill exempts small brewers from Ohio’s Alcohol Franchise Law, which requires a beer or wine manufacturer to enter into a franchise agreement with a distributor and lays out requirements for the franchise agreement.  The exemption would allow small brewers to establish agreements with distributors under their own negotiated terms rather than the state-required terms.  S.B. 138 will see its second committee hearing on December 12.

H.B. 162 – Agriculture Appreciation Act.  The House of Representatives passed H.B. 162 in October, and it will have its  second hearing on December 12.  Proposed by Reps. Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) and Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), the bill designates the following federal agriculture days as state days in Ohio:

  • March 21 of each year as “Agriculture day”;
  • The week beginning on the Saturday before the last Saturday of each February through the last Saturday in February as "FFA Week";
  • October 12 of each year as “Farmer’s Day”;
  • The week ending with the second Saturday of March as “4-H Week.”

Keep up with the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee’s activity on the Ohio Senate’s website at https://ohiosenate.gov/committees/agriculture-and-natural-resources

Pile of tree limbs burning in open farm field
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Thursday, November 30th, 2023

With the warm, dry, and windy months of October and November behind us, Ohio farmers will soon have legal clearance to conduct open burning during the daylight hours.  Ohio law prohibits all open burning from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during October and November.  That’s because ground cover and weather conditions create high fire risk and volunteer firefighters with daytime jobs aren’t readily available to fight the fires. 

December 1 marks the end of the daytime burn restriction, but other open burning laws remain in effect. Farmers can burn “agricultural waste,” but must follow conditions in the open burning laws.  Burning wastes that aren't agricultural waste might require prior permission or notification, and it is illegal to burn some wastes due to the environmental harms they cause. Don't get burned by failing to know and follow the open burning laws.  Here’s a summary of important provisions that affect farmers and farmland owners.

What you can burn.  Ohio law allows the burning of “agricultural wastes” under certain conditions.  Ohio law defines what is and is not “agricultural waste” as follows:

  • Agricultural waste is any waste material generated by crop, horticultural, or livestock production practices, and includes such items as woody debris and plant matter from stream flooding, bags, cartons, structural materials, and landscape wastes that are generated in agricultural activities.
  • Agricultural waste does not include buildings; dismantled or fallen barns; garbage; dead animals; animal waste; motor vehicles and parts thereof; or "economic poisons and containers," unless the manufacturer has identified open burning as a safe disposal procedure.
  • Agricultural waste does not include"land clearing waste," which is debris resulting from the clearing of land for new development for agricultural, residential, commercial or industrial purposes.  Burning of “land clearing waste” requires prior written notification to Ohio EPA.
  • If an agricultural waste pile is greater than 20 ft. wide x 10 ft. high (4,000 cubic feet), permission from Ohio EPA is necessary.

Where you can burn.  Laws that affect the burning location relate to where the waste is generated and whether the burn is in or near a village, city, or buildings:

  • It is legal to burn agricultural waste only if it is generated on the property where the burn occurs.  It is illegal to take agricultural waste to a different property for burning and to receive and burn agricultural waste from another property.
  • Burning inside a “restricted area” requires providing a ten day written notice to Ohio EPA.  A restricted area is any area inside city or village limits, within 1,000-feet of a city or village with a population of 1,000 to 10,000, or within one-mile of a city or village with a population of more than 10,000. 
  • A burn must be located more than 1,000 feet from any neighboring inhabited building.

How to manage the burn.  Ohio laws impose practices a person must follow when conducting open burning, which includes:

  • Remove all leaves, grass, wood, and inflammable materials around the burn to a safe distance.
  • Stack waste to provide the best practicable condition for efficient burning.
  • Don’t burn in weather conditions that prevent dispersion of smoke and emissions.
  • Take reasonable precautions to keep the fire under control. 
  • Extinguish or safely cover an open fire before leaving the area.

Local laws matter too. A local government can also have laws that regulate burning activities, so it’s important to check with the local fire department to know whether any additional regulations apply to a burn.

A bad burn can burn you.   Violation of state and local open burning laws creates several risks for farmers and farmland owners. First is the risk of enforcement by the Ohio EPA, which has the authority to issue fines of up to $1,000 per day per offense for an illegal burn.  According to the EPA, the most common violations by farmers include burning substances that are not “agricultural wastes,” such as tires and plastics, failing to meet the 1,000 foot setback requirement, and burning waste from another property. EPA enforcement officers regularly patrol their districts, investigate fires they see, and investigate complaints from neighbors or others who report burning activities, so “getting caught” is quite possible.

An illegal burn might also bring in the Ohio Division of Forestry or local law enforcement.  Beyond the environmental provisions, other violations of the open burning laws can result in third degree misdemeanor charges.  Penalties of up to $500 and 60 days of jail time per violation could result.  

A final risk to consider is liability for harm to yourself, other people, or other property if a burn goes wrong.  It’s possible for a fire to escape and burn unintended property, to reduce roadway visibility and cause an accident, or to interfere with people, animals, crops, or buildings.  These situations can cause personal injuries, property harm, and could result in insurance claims or a negligence or nuisance lawsuit.  Using common sense and taking reasonable safety precautions when conducting a burn can go a long way toward reducing the risk of harm and resulting liability for harm.

To learn more about Ohio’s open burning laws, visit the Ohio EPA website at https://epa.ohio.gov/divisions-and-offices/air-pollution-control/permitting/open-burning.

Title page of Maumee Watershed TMDL Report
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

Featuring the work of Carolyn C. Jolly, Law Fellow, National Agricultural Law Center

OSU’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program is fortunate to be a partner with the National Agricultural Law Center, which includes working with the Center’s Law Fellows—students currently studying law in different law schools across the country.  Carolyn C. Jolly is one of our current Law Fellows, and she has an interest in environmental laws that affect agriculture.  Carolyn is the author of today’s blog.  She has assembled a harvest of environmental updates affecting agriculture that include approval of Ohio EPA’s phosphorus TMDL, a practical ESA guide for producers, EPA’s commitment to adhering to its ESA requirements, and an update on participation by agricultural producers in voluntary carbon markets.

EPA Approves Ohio’s Maumee Watershed Nutrient Total Maximum Daily Load

In 2014, phosphorous runoff from farms in the western basin of Lake Erie caused an algal bloom. Harmful algal blooms produce toxins that impair drinking water, affect aquatic life, and hinder recreational use. Coming up with a solution to reduce the phosphorus runoff has been contentious. In 2019, Toledo voters passed a bill that would allow citizens to sue farmers on behalf of the lake. This measure was held to be unconstitutional, but it could have greatly impacted the ability of farmers and producers to continue their operations. To address specific pollutants, the Clean Water Act requires states to develop Total Maximum Dailey Loads (TMDL).  Environmental interests and local governments in Ohio legally challenged both the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA to establish a TMDL for the western Lake Erie Basin.  In June of 2023, the Ohio EPA did submit a proposed TMDL for to the EPA and it was approved in September. The aim of the TMDL is to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Maumee Watershed.

Here are some of the approaches for agricultural areas the EPA included in the TMDL:

  Nutrient Management

  • Soil testing and nutrient management planning efforts (e.g., Voluntary Nutrient Management Plans via H2Ohio funding)
  • Variable rate fertilization and subsurface placement of fertilizer (e.g., following the ‘4 R’s’ of nutrient management: using the right nutrient at the right rate and right time in the right place)
  • Manure incorporation (mixing manure into soils or placing the manure below the soil surface)

Erosion Management

  • Conservation crop rotation and cover crops (e.g., improving soil health, increasing soil organic matter, improving soil moisture storage capacity, etc.)

Agricultural Water Quantity Management

  • Drainage water management (e.g., management of discharge from agricultural tile drainage lines to store water in the water table beneath fields and reduce discharge to surface waters) 
  • Edge-of-field buffers (e.g., planting in riparian areas to increase water storage and decrease nutrient and sediment inputs, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative)
  • Two-stage ditch deployment (e.g., modifying the profile of stream channel bottoms by constructing a bench/floodplain adjacent to the existing stream channel to slow water flow during high flow events and trap nutrients and sediment)
  • Wetland restoration and preservation (e.g., the restoration/protection of existing wetlands are beneficial for storing water and nutrients on the landscape, Environmental Quality Incentives Program; Western Lake Erie Basin Project - Ohio)

Read the Final TMDL on the Ohio EPA’s webpage for the Maumee Watershed.

Agricultural Producers Now have a Practical Guide to the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is intended to protect endangered and threatened species and thus has an impact on agriculture and land use across the country. However, being such a wide-ranging piece of legislation, it can be difficult to understand the law and its full  impact on agriculture. Brigit Rollins, an attorney with our partner, the National Agricultural Law Center, set out to answer how and why the ESA affects agriculture and land use by creating the Endangered Species Act Manual: A Practical Guide to the ESA for Agricultural Producers. It is a concise guide that describes the history of the ESA, influential case law, regulatory changes, and specifics of the ESA’s impact on agriculture. Additionally, it is meant to be a living document that will be updated with current changes and issues.

EPA on Balancing ESA Requirements and Responsible Pesticide Use

When registering new uses for pesticides and reviewing already registered uses, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to consult the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to ensure that the use follows ESA standards. This can be a lengthy process and the EPA has complied with the process in less than 5% of its actions. This noncompliance has resulted in substantial litigation. To address these issues, EPA issued its ESA Workplan.  EPA actions in the workplan include developing mitigation measures for particularly vulnerable species, developing and implementing strategies to identity mitigation measures for the different classes of pesticides, completion of ESA work for eight organophosphates and four rodenticides, and hosting a workshop with stakeholders to explore other methods of offsetting pesticide impacts. EPA also released its Draft Herbicide Strategy for comment and the Rodenticide, Insecticide, and Fungicide Strategies are under development. The EPA has also released its ESA guidance for future registrations.

Agricultural Producer Participation in Carbon Markets

To mitigate climate change, Congress passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act (GCSA) to improve access to carbon markets for agricultural producers. In accordance with the law’s requirements, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) released A General Assessment of the Role of Agriculture and Forestry in the U.S. Carbon Markets on October 23, 2023.  The report addresses participation by agricultural producers in the carbon market, barriers to and concerns or participation, and ways to improve producer participation. The report notes that even though producers are aware of the carbon market, voluntary participation has been low.  According to the report, “Producers cite the concerns about the return on investment, upfront costs, data collection burdens, compensation for pre-existing practices, permanence requirements, issues of scale, and confusion about carbon markets and programs as key factors in their evaluation into whether to participate in a carbon project.” The USDA concludes that to reduce barriers to participation, strategies need to be implemented to “reduce transaction costs, minimize record-keeping burdens, address early-adopter and permanence requirement concerns, and address barriers related to project scale.” The report also details the USDA’s role in improving participation through outreach and education, offering grants and partnerships, supporting carbon market infrastructure, and investing in measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification of carbon credit procedures.

 

Three women holding sign saying "Ohio preserved farm" in front of field of corn.
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, October 25th, 2023

An agricultural easement is a legal instrument that can protect farmland from non-farm development and preserve the legacy of family land for the future. An earlier blog post explains how an agricultural easement works and answers common questions about agricultural easements.  As we explained, an agricultural easement not only preserves farmland but can also be a valuable financial and tax tool that can enable a transition of the farm to the next generation.  But are there drawbacks to agricultural easements?  Here's a summary of potential negative implications of easements that landowners should also consider.

It's difficult to forecast the future of a farm.  The very nature of the easement requires a best estimate of how the farmland might be used for agriculture into the future--a challenging task.  The Deed of Agricultural Easement the parties agree to must predict agricultural activities that are consistent with the easement and those that would violate the easement.  There could be future problems if the predictions and forecasting aren’t flexible enough to accommodate agriculture in the future. 

The “perpetuity” requirement. While it’s possible to draft an easement that lasts only for a certain term of years, most agricultural easements remain on the land “in perpetuity,” or permanently.  The programs that pay a landowner to grant an agricultural easement and the federal income and estate tax benefits for donating all or part of an easement require that the easement is perpetual.  This differs from the conservation programs we’re accustomed to in agriculture that require shorter term commitments, and it can be a deterrent to a landowner who wants future generations to have a say in what happens to the land.  These concerns might be addressed in the deed of agricultural easement, however, which may provide sufficient flexibility to address those future concerns.

Termination can be difficult and costly.  Hand in hand with the perpetuity issue is the difficulty of terminating an agricultural easement once it’s in place. Typically, both parties must agree on a termination and a court of law must determine that conditions on or surrounding the land make it impossible or impractical to continue to use the land for agricultural purposes. Attempts to terminate without following the stated procedures can result in penalties for the current landowner.  If there was a payment for the agricultural easement, a deed of easement will likely require the landowner to reimburse the paying party for the proportionate share of the fair market value of the land with the easement removed and will also require the party receiving the reimbursement to use the funds only for similar conservation purposes.  

Eminent domain can be an issue.  As one Ohio farm family has learned, an agricultural easement might not protect the farmland from an eminent domain proceeding.  In Columbia Gas v. Bailey, 2023-Ohio-1245, the Bailey family was forced to litigate an attempt by Columbia Gas to use eminent domain for the construction of a gas pipeline across their farmland.  Their predecessor had placed an agricultural easement on the farmland in 2003, and the family argued the easement prevented the taking of land for the pipeline under the doctrine of “prior public use.”  That doctrine prohibits an eminent domain action that would destroy a prior public use.  The court agreed that the agricultural easement did create a prior public use on the land, and the court shifted the burden to Columbia Gas to prove that the pipeline would not destroy the established prior public use.  Rather than doing so, Columbia Gas withdrew its eminent domain proceeding and moved the location of the pipeline.  The court's decision to recognize an agricultural easement as a prior public use might provide some protection from eminent domain for future owners of agricultural easement land but, like the Baileys, landowners may have to fight a long, expensive battle to prove that an eminent domain action would destroy an established prior public use.

Lenders and other interests must be on board.  A landowner must deal with any existing mortgages, liens, leases, or easements on the farmland before entering into an agricultural easement.  The State of Ohio’s agricultural easement, for example, requires a lender to subordinate a mortgage to the rights of the easement holder.  Renegotiation of the mortgage might be necessary, and the lender might require a paydown of the outstanding mortgage if the property’s value could reduce below that amount.  Without subordination and other approvals, a landowner will not be able to enter into an agricultural easement. 

Local governments must be on board.  Ohio’s program for purchasing agricultural easements requires a landowner to submit a resolution of support from the township and county where the land is located.  This means the local governments must agree that committing the land to agriculture is consistent with local land use plans.  An early conversation with local officials is necessary to ensuring consistency with the community’s future plans.

There will be monitoring.  An easement holder has the responsibility of ensuring there is not a violation of the easement or conversion of the land to non-agricultural uses.  This means there will be a baseline or “present condition” report of the easement property upon easement creation and monitoring of the property “in perpetuity.”  An annual visit to the property and completion of an annual monitoring report by the easement holder is common. 

It's a lengthy process.  Agricultural easements don’t pop up overnight.  Especially when applying for funding from competitive programs like Ohio’s Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program or the NRCS Agricultural Land Easements Program, it can be a year or more before an agricultural easement is in place. 

Planning and integration with plans is necessary.  An agricultural easement is one piece of what can be a complex plan addressing a landowner’s expansion, retirement, estate, and transition needs.  A landowner would be wise to work with a team of professionals—financial planner, tax professional, attorney—to ensure that an agricultural easement integrates with all other parts of the plan.

Still interested?  Ohio landowners interested in learning more about agricultural easements may want to consider these steps:

  • Review the resources on the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Office of Farmland Preservation.
  • Talk with other landowners who have entered into easements.  Refer to the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts landowner resources and landowner stories.
  • Visit American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center.
  • Talk with a “local sponsor” or land trust in your area.  The Office of Farmland Preservation provides a list of local sponsors for the Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program on its website.
  • Talk with your attorney, financial planner, and accountant about the implications of entering into an agricultural easement.
Rolling Ohio farmland with large hay bales and barns in distance
By: Peggy Kirk Hall, Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

Questions from farmers and farmland owners about agricultural easements are on the rise at the Farm Office.  Why is that?  From what we’re hearing, the questions are driven by concerns about the loss of farmland to development as well as desires to keep farmland in the family for future generations.  An agricultural easement is a unique tool that can help a farmland owner and farming operation meet goals to protect farmland from development or transition that land to the next generation.  Here are answers to some of the questions we’ve been hearing.

What is an agricultural easement?  An agricultural easement is a voluntary legal agreement by a landowner to use land primarily for agricultural purposes and forfeit the right to develop the land for other purposes, either permanently or, less often, for a term of years.  In an agricultural easement, a landowner grants an easement “holder” the legal right to enforce the easement against a landowner or other party who attempts to convert the land to a non-agricultural use. A written legal instrument details and documents this agreement between a landowner and the easement “holder.”  The agricultural easement instrument must be recorded in the county land records, and the agricultural easement is binding on all future landowners for the duration of its term.

A state legislature must authorize the use of the agricultural easement instrument, and Ohio’s legislature did so in 1999.  At that time, the legislature adopted a detailed legal definition of “agricultural easement” in Ohio Revised Code 5301.67(C):

"Agricultural easement" means an incorporeal right or interest in land that is held for the public purpose of retaining the use of land predominantly in agriculture; that imposes any limitations on the use or development of the land that are appropriate at the time of creation of the easement to achieve that purpose; that is in the form of articles of dedication, easement, covenant, restriction, or condition; and that includes appropriate provisions for the holder to enter the property subject to the easement at reasonable times to ensure compliance with its provisions.

The legislature also required in Ohio Revised Code 5301.68 that a landowner may only grant an agricultural easement on land that qualifies for Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program under Ohio Revised Code 5713.31.

Is an agricultural easement the same as a conservation easement?  No, not in Ohio, but they share the same legal concept of dedicating land to a particular use.  Ohio also allows a landowner to grant a conservation easement, which is a promise to retain land predominantly in its natural, scenic, open, or wooded condition and forfeit the right to develop the land for other purposes.  A conservation easement might allow agricultural land uses, and an agricultural easement might allow some conservation uses.  The terms used in federal law and some other states vary from Ohio, and include “agricultural conservation easement” or “agricultural land easement.”

Who can be a “holder” of an agricultural easement?  Ohio law answers this question in Ohio Revised Code 5301.68, which authorizes only these entities to enter into an agricultural easement with a landowner:

  • The director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture;
  • A municipal corporation, county, or township;
  • A soil and water conservation district;
  • A tax exempt charitable organization organized for the preservation of land areas for public outdoor recreation or education, or scenic enjoyment; the preservation of historically important land areas or structures; or the protection of natural environmental systems (generally referred to as a “land trust” or a “land conservancy.”)

What kinds of land uses would be inconsistent with keeping the land in agricultural use?  That depends on the terms in the written deed for the agricultural easement.  Activities that might violate the agreement to maintain the land as agricultural include subdivision of the property, commercial and industrial uses, major surface alterations, and oil and gas development.  It’s typical to identify the homestead or “building envelope” area and allow new buildings, construction and similar activities within that area, but those activities might not be permitted on other parts of the land.  Review the  Ohio Department of Agriculture’s current Deed of Agricultural Easement through the link on this page:  https://agri.ohio.gov/programs/farmland-preservation-office/landowners.

Can a landowner transfer land that is subject to an agricultural easement?  Yes.  An agricultural easement does not restrict the right to sell or gift land, but it does carry over to the new landowner.  That landowner must abide by the terms of the agricultural easement.

Are there financial incentives for entering into an agricultural easement?  Yes.  There are several financial incentives:

  • The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Office of Farmland Preservation oversees the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, which provides Clean Ohio grant funds to certified local sponsors to purchase permanent agricultural easements in their communities.  It’s a competitive process that requires a landowner to work with an approved local sponsor to apply for the program and to donate at least 25% of the agricultural easement’s value if selected.  A landowner can receive up to 75% of the appraised value of the farm’s “development rights,” with a payment cap of $2,000 per acre and $500,000 per farm per application period.
  • Federal funds are also available through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. This program is also competitive and requires a landowner to work with an approved partner to determine eligibility and apply for easement funding.  NRCS may contribute up to 50 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land easement.
  • There are also federal income tax incentives for donating a portion or all of an agricultural easement’s value to a qualified charitable organization.  Internal Revenue Code section 170(h) allows a landowner to deduct the value of the easement up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) in the year of the gift, with a 15-year carryover of excess value.  That AGI percentage increases to 100% for a “qualified farmer” who earns more than 50% of their gross income from farming.
  • There can also be federal estate tax benefits for land subject to a permanent agricultural or conservation easement.  The land is valued at its restricted value, which lowers the estate value.  Additionally, Section 2055(f) of the Internal Revenue Code allows donations of qualifying easements to a public charity to be deducted from the taxable value of an estate.  Up to 40% of the value of land restricted by an agricultural or conservation easement  can be excluded from the value of an estate if the easement meets Internal Revenue Code section 2031(C) provisions, limited to $500,000. 

How can a family use an agricultural easement to enable farm transition goals?  Here’s an example.  John and Sue are fourth generation owners of 250 acres of farmland they plan to leave to their child Lee, and they want the land to remain as farmland into the future.  Lee is committed to farming and wants to farm, and John and Sue would like Lee to have more land to improve the viability of the farming operation. They find a local sponsor and apply to Ohio’s Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program, offering to donate 25% of the agricultural easement value to the program.  They are selected for the funding and receive a payment of $2,000 per acre for the agricultural easement.  They use the $500,000 in easement proceeds to purchase additional farmland for Lee.  John and Sue receive a federal income tax credit for the portion of the easement value they donated to qualify for the program, and carryover the amount until it is fully used, up to 15 years.

What are the drawbacks of agricultural easements?  There are challenges and drawbacks of agricultural easements, and we’ll discuss those in our next blog post.

Agricultural easements require legal and tax advice and careful planning.  Our short Q&A doesn’t address all of the nuances of agricultural easements.  It’s a big decision, and one that should align with current goals and estate and transition plans.  To determine if an agricultural easement works for your situation, seek the advice and planning assistance of knowledgeable legal and tax professionals.

Post-it notes with insurance coverage questions.
By: Jeffrey K. Lewis, Esq., Friday, August 25th, 2023

With just over a week left until echoes of “Hang on Sloopy” and chants of “O-H” and “I-O” can be heard from Buckeye faithful across the nation, we thought we would provide you with some light reading to hold you over until that long awaited 3:30 kick off. In this edition of our Ag Law Harvest, we focus on three recent Ohio Supreme Court cases that could potentially impact business owners, Northern Ohio landowners, and Ohio taxpayers. 

Assault and Battery: Is it Covered Under an Insurance Policy?
A victim of a stabbing at an Ohio adult care facility is unable to collect judgment from the facility’s insurance company after a recent decision by the Ohio Supreme Court. The victim was living at the facility when another resident stabbed him. The perpetrator was later indicted on criminal charges but found not guilty by reason of insanity. 

The victim then filed a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator and the facility to recover for damages resulting from the stabbing injuries. The victim ultimately dropped his lawsuit against the perpetrator and entered into a settlement agreement with the facility. As part of the settlement agreement, the victim agreed not to pursue the judgment against the facility, and instead, sought to collect his judgment from the facility’s insurance company.   

At the time of the stabbing, the adult care facility had a commercial general liability policy. When the victim sought judgment from the facility’s insurance company, the insurance company refused to provide coverage. The insurance company explained that the insurance policy contained a provision that specifically excluded coverage for any bodily injury resulting from an assault or battery. The specific provision at issue stated: 

 

The victim argued that because the perpetrator was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity in the criminal trial, the exclusion provision was nullified because the perpetrator lacked the subjective intent to commit any assault or battery. 

The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed. The Court explained that the plain language of the exclusion provision of the insurance policy at issue is clear – there is no intent requirement included in the exclusion language. Therefore, the Court held that coverage did not exist for the willful assault on the victim. The Court sympathized with the victim but ultimately could not interpret the insurance policy language to include a subjective intent requirement where none existed. 

This case demonstrates the importance of reading and understanding your business insurance policy. Insurance policies are, at the core, contracts between two parties and the language contained within the policy will usually govern that contractual relationship. What you assume is covered under your policy may not necessarily be the case. Furthermore, not all insurance policies are the same. We have seen Ohio cases where an insurance policy does require the presence of some subjective intent in order for an assault and battery exclusion to apply. Speak with your insurance agent and/or attorney to make sure you understand when and where coverage exists, knowing this can be critical to protecting you, your farm, and/or your business. 

Ohio Supreme Court Approves Northern Ohio Wind Farm. 
Residents of Huron and Erie Counties along with Black Swamp Bird Conservatory (the “Plaintiffs”) recently lost their battle in court to prevent the construction of a new wind farm in Northern Ohio. The Plaintiffs argued that the Ohio Power Siting Board (the “Board”) failed to satisfy Ohio law before granting the new wind farm its certificate of environmental compatibility and public need. Specifically, the Plaintiffs assert that the wind farm could “disrupt the area’s water supply, create excessive noise and ‘shadow flicker’ for residents near the wind farm, and kill bald eagles and migrating birds.” 

The Ohio Supreme Court found otherwise. The Court concluded that the Plaintiffs failed to establish that the Board’s granting of the certificate was unlawful or unreasonable. As approved, the new wind farm will consist of up to 71 turbines and cover 32,000 acres of leased land. To read more about the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision visit: In re Application of Firelands Winds, L.L.C.

Ohio Supreme Court Sets New Precedent on Interpreting Ohio Tax Law.
In Ohio, most retail sales are subject to sales tax unless a certain exemption applies. Ohio law does have a sales tax exemption for equipment used directly in the production of oil and gas. A fracking business recently challenged a decision by Ohio’s Tax Commissioner and Board of Tax Appeals that levied the sales tax on certain equipment purchased by the business. The fracking equipment at issue included: a data van, blenders, sand kings, t-belts, hydration units, and chemical-additive units.

The Tax Commissioner concluded that the fracking equipment was not used directly in the extraction of oil and gas, only indirectly, and therefore, did not qualify for the tax exemption. The Ohio Supreme Court felt differently. 

The Court found that all the equipment, except the data van, is used in unison to expose the oil and gas. Because the equipment is used to expose the oil and gas – a necessary part of fracking – the Court had little difficulty concluding that the equipment is being used directly in the production of oil and gas. 

In addition to the equipment’s direct use in the production of oil and gas, the Court also recognized that the fracking equipment may also have a storage or delivery function/purpose. However, the Court reasoned that a piece of equipment’s function must be viewed through the “primary purpose” lens. For example, the Court held that although the blender equipment in this case performs a holding function, the primary use of the blender is to mix “the critical ingredients in the fracking recipe seconds before the mixture is inserted into the well.” Therefore, the Court found that the blender’s holding function did not disqualify it from Ohio’s sales tax exemption. 

Additionally, in this case, the Court also issued an opinion on how Ohio courts should interpret tax law moving forward. Normally, courts use the ever-important legal principal of stare decisis to help it decide on new cases. Stare decisis is the principal that courts and judges should honor the decisions, rulings, and opinions from prior cases when ruling on new cases. Here, the Court took its opportunity to acknowledge that in the past the Court interpreted tax exemptions against the taxpayer, favoring tax collection. But the Court made clear that from here on out, the Court “will apply the same rules of construction to tax statutes that [it applies] to all other statutes” without a slant toward one side or the other. The Court concluded that its task “is not to make tax policy but to provide a fair reading of what the legislature has enacted: one that is based on the plain language of the [law].” 

To read the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision visit: Stingray Pressure Pumping, L.L.C. v. Harris

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