Ohio Agricultural Law Blog--Ohio Department of Agriculture: New Director Changes Course of Watersheds in Distress Rulemaking

By:Evin Bachelor, , Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program , Law Fellow, Agricultural and Resource Law Program Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Less than a week into the administration of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a new approach to watersheds in distress has emerged.  Director Dorothy Pelanda assumed the helm of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (“ODA”) earlier this week.  (Read more about the new director below).  By Tuesday, ODA had changed the status of the proposed watersheds in distress rules in the Register of Ohio to “To Be Refiled.”

Watersheds in Distress Proposed Rules “To Be Refiled”

The change in status of the proposed rules signals that ODA plans to change its earlier proposal.  The Register of Ohio, which is where state agencies post rules and proposed rules, defines a proposed rule with a “To Be Refiled” status as one “that has been temporarily removed from JCARR consideration by the rule-filing agency.”  Until a sponsoring agency acts, the proposed rule remains in the “To Be Refiled” status and off of the agenda of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (“JCARR”).  As we mentioned in a previous blog post, JCARR was set to consider the controversial proposal at its January 22, 2019 meeting.  However, the change in status of the proposed rules means that JCARR will not consider them until ODA takes further action.  ODA may revise the proposal, refile as-is, take no action, or withdraw the proposal.

Readers may recall from a previous blog post that the Kasich administration sought to expand the number of watersheds designated as “in distress,” which would impose additional regulations and restrictions on farmers who apply manure and nutrients to the land.  Further, the proposal would have required impacted farmers to submit a nutrient management plan to ODA, and ODA would have to audit at least 5 percent of those plans.  ODA’s Soil and Water Conversation Division held a hearing on November 21st, and a number of stakeholders attended to provide comments.  A summary report of the hearing is available here.  Currently, the Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed is the only watershed in Ohio subject to the additional requirements.

Dorothy Pelanda Assumes Directorship of Ohio Department of Agriculture

Director Pelanda steps into Governor Mike DeWine’s cabinet as the 39th Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  She served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 2011 until the end of the previous General Assembly, and held leadership positions within the Republican caucus.  Prior to her appointment to the Ohio House, Director Pelanda practiced law in Union County.  She is a graduate of the University of Akron School of Law, Miami University, and Marysville High School.  Director Pelanda is the first woman to serve as the Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.  For more information about Director Pelanda, visit ODA’s website here.

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