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A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is improperly issuing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for concentrated animal feeding operations without authorization by the U.S. EPA. Two residents of northwest Ohio filed the suit last summer against the ODA, the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA. In a tenuous argument, they alleged that the Ohio EPA illegally delegated its authority over NPDES permits by allowing ODA to issue a manure management plan as a condition for obtaining an NPDES permit from the Ohio EPA, and by allowing ODA to “determine, collect and analyze” data required for an NPDES permit. The plaintiffs had also requested a preliminary injunction against ODA, which the court denied last December.
The lawsuit aims at the Ohio legislature's action in 2000 that transferred authority from the Ohio EPA to ODA for Ohio's state-based permitting program for concentrated animal feeding facilities. The state permit program is separate from, and in addition to, the NPDES permit program administered under the federal Clean Water Act by the Ohio EPA. Following the transfer of the state program to ODA, Ohio requested that the U.S. EPA approve a transfer of the NPDES permit authority for animal feeding operations from Ohio EPA to the ODA. The U.S. EPA has not yet approved the transfer, and the NPDES program remains with the Ohio EPA. If approved by the U.S. EPA, both the state and NPDES permit programs would be administered through ODA's Livestock Envrionmental Permitting program. Until that time, ODA administers the Livestock Environmental Permitting program according to Ohio law, while the Ohio EPA oversees NPDES permits for animal feeding operations that are also subject to the Clean Water Act due to potential discharges into waters of the United States.
The plaintiffs claimed that ODA is improperly administering NPDES permits because of the manure management plans required for both the state and federal permit programs. An applicant seeking both an Ohio and an NPDES permit can submit the same manure management plan to each agency. The standards for both programs are the same, because ODA followed the EPA's federal requirements for manure management plans when it developed Ohio's manure management plan standards. It is possible that a manure management plan approved by ODA could also be approved by the Ohio EPA in the NPDES permit program. Plaintiffs argued that by allowing a manure management plan that had been approved for ODA's permit program to be used in the application for an NPDES permit, the Ohio EPA was delegating its authority to ODA to review and approve manure management plans for the NPDES program.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. District Court disagreed. "Even though a permit applicant may submit to the Ohio EPA a manure management plan which was developed to satisfy Ohio’s permit to operate requirements, the plan is still reviewed by the Ohio EPA and will only be allowed to be used in the discharge elimination permit application if the plan satisfies federal regulations and the Clean Water Act," stated Judge David Katz.
Judge Katz proceeded to grant the agencies' motion to dismiss the case. "Plaintiffs’ assertion that the Ohio EPA improperly delegated its authority regarding concentrated feeding permits to the Ohio Department of Agriculture is completely devoid of merit. The facts simply do not show that Ohio’s EPA and Department of Agriculture have engaged in any conduct which violates a federal statute or regulation."
Read the decision in Askins v. Ohio Dept. of Agriculture here.
House Committee Sets Out to Address Water Quality
The 131st session of the Ohio General Assembly is underway with a few changes to the structure and leadership of the committees that address agriculture. In the House of Representatives, the previous Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee has been renamed as the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. Natural resource issues, previously handled with agriculture under the old committee structure, will now go to a newly formed Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The committee modifications echo similar changes made last session in the Senate.
Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) will serve as the new chair of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, with Tony Burkley (R-Payne) as vice chair and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) as the ranking minority member. Other committee members are Terry Boose (R-Clarksville), Jim Buchy (R-Greenville), Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township), Steve Kraus (R-Sandusky), Sarah LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Township), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren), Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta), Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), Debbie Phillips (D-Albany), Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton ), Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton), Margaret Ann Ruhl (R-Mt. Vernon), Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon), Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), A. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) and Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason).
The House Agriculture and Rural Development committee will kick off its work with a prominent issue: water quality. Speaker Cliff Rosenberger has stated that water quality will be a priority issue that the House "needs to address and address quickly." Late last session, the House attemped to mitigate algal issues in Ohio lakes by passing legislation that would have affected applications of livestock manure and chemical fertilizers (HB 490). The legislation failed to pass the Ohio Senate and expired on December 31, 2014 with the end of the legislative session. This week, the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee will revisit those issues when it meets off-site for a hearing at Cooper Farms in Van Wert to discuss water quality, nutrient management and agriculture. Expert witnesses in agriculture and watershed management will present testimony and address questions from the committee.
On the Senate side of the new legislative session, the Senate Agriculture Committee will continue under the leadership of Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), with vice chair Joe Uecker ((R–Miami Township) and ranking minority leader Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville). Other committee members are Bill Beagle (R–Tipp City), Dave Burke (R-Marysville), Capri S. Cafaro (D-Hubbard), Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) and Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood). The Senate Agriculture Committee does not currently have any hearings on its schedule.
Ohio State University Extension will offer four Farmland Leasing Workshops throughout Ohio this February.
The three hour workshops will include topics of interest to both landowners and farm operators, such as factors affecting leasing options and rental rates, analyzing rent survey data and legal requirements and provisions for farm leases. The speakers will help attendees consider how to use data in negotiations and to apply legal information to leasing practices.
Workshop presenters include Barry Ward, Assistant Professor, OSU Extension and Leader, Production Business Management and Peggy Hall, Assistant Professor, OSU Extension and Director of OSU's Agricultural & Resource Law Program.
Topics included in the workshop are:
- Factors affecting leasing options and rates
- Evaluating cash rent survey data
- Farmland leasing options: fixed and flexible cash leases
- Creating a legally enforceable lease
- Legal provisions in farmland leases
- Analyzing good and bad leasing practices
Dates and Locations of Farmland Leasing Workshops:
February 4, 2015, 9:00 am—12:00 pm
Fairfield County Ag Center, Lancaster
Registration: Call OSU Extension at 740-653-5419. A program on the Farm Bill will follow the Farmland Leasing Workshop. $10 registration fee for both programs.
February 6, 2015, 1:00–4:00 pm
Kent State University Tuscarawas, New Philadelphia
Registration: Call OSU Extension at 330-339-2337. $15 registration fee.
February 11, 6:00–9:00 pm
Paulding County Extension Office, Paulding
Registration: Call OSU Extension at 419-399-8225. $20 registration fee if registered by February 4.
February 20, 9:00 am—12:00 pm
Greene County Career Center, Xenia
Registration: Call OSU Extension at 937-372-9972, x114. Call by February 16 for free registration.
Check the events calendar at https://farmoffice.osu.edu for workshop details.
Attorney Bill Bridgforth will present OSU's next webinar on "The 2014 Farm Bill: Guiding a Client through the New Law" on Friday, January 9 at 1 pm EST. Bridgforth is a senior partner in the Arkansas law firm of Ramsay, Bridgforth, Robinson & Raley, LLP who represents agricultural producers around the United States. He will explain the election decisions producers and landowners must make under the new Farm Bill and will provide examples of decision making impacts.
There is no registration or fee required for the webinar, which is accessible at https://carmenconnect.osu.edu. A recording of the webinar and a listing of additional webinars is available at farmoffice.osu.edu.
The Ohio Food, Agriculture & Environmental Law Webinar Series is an outreach project of OSU Extension's Agricultural & Resource Law Program.