New Legislative Session Begins with Changes to Ohio's Agriculture Committees
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.