Ohio’s inland waterways have a problem; Lake Erie, Grand Lake Saint Mary’s, and many other inland lakes and streams have become loaded with algal blooms. Each summer, as the temperature increases, so does the amount of algae living in the waters. This algae feeds off of nitrates and phosphorous-based nutrients. The sources of these nutrients are varied, from man-made to naturally occurring. I am proud to share what Ohio’s largest industry is doing to overcome the challenge of these out of control algal blooms.

In the last several months, my fellow Ohio Senators and I have been working towards a resolution for all sides involved. I had many conversations at county fairs with local farmers in the district. I met with representatives from the Ohio EPA. I’ve talked with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources, and many of Ohio’s agriculture commodity groups. The result of these conversations has been Senate Bill 150, which I jointly sponsored with the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Senator Cliff Hite.

Senate Bill 150 represents the agriculture industry stepping up and working to assure that the vital nutrients applied to farm fields do not reach the inland lakes of Ohio. Ohio’s farmers have an environmental interest in preventing fertilizer runoff, since the water that they drink, fish and swim in is the closest to the farm field. They also have an economic interest in keeping fertilizers in the soil and available to their growing crops, because fertilizer is one of a farm’s largest expenses. Farmers have every incentive to make sure that fertilizer nutrients are kept in the soil.

I have been genuinely pleased to see the cohesive and combined effort of so many who have contributed to this bill. By working together with all interested parties, we have created a joint effort that moves us toward a common goal. It is my sincere belief that Senate Bill 150 is a positive step forward, not only for Ohio’s inland waterways, but also for Ohio’s agricultural industry, which remains our state’s number one industry.

Senate Bill 150 has seen amendments in committee; it is not yet a finished project. This is a result of the continuing conversations; we are working to make SB 150 even better. This bill may continue to change as it moves forward through the legislature. Towards that end, I gladly invite contribution and discussion on this legislation as we work collaboratively towards the best possible solution. Lake Erie and Ohio’s inland waterways can recover; as a farmer myself, I am excited to know that the agricultural industry is part of the solution.

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