New care standards for Ohio veal and dairy to begin in 2018

Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, Agricultural & Resource Law Program

Veal and dairy producers in Ohio will be subject to new livestock care standards in 2018. Producers were first made aware of these changes when the Ohio Livestock Care Standards for veal, dairy and other species were originally adopted in September of 2011 after the passage of State Issue 2, a constitutional amendment that required Ohio to establish standards for the care of livestock. Since the new care standards make significant changes to the management of veal and dairy, producers were given a little more than six years to transition their facilities and practices accordingly. The new standards will be effective on January 1, 2018. Producers with veal calves and dairy cattle are encouraged to understand the regulations and make the required changes to their operations by January 1.

Changes to veal regulations
The regulations for veal address housing for veal calves weighing 750 pounds or less. Currently, veal calves may be tethered or non-tethered in stalls of a minimum of 2 feet x 5.5 feet. Next year, the following housing standards will apply:
– Tethering will be permitted only to prevent naval and cross sucking and as restraint for examinations, treatments and transit, if:
– The tether is long enough to allow the veal calf to stand, groom, eat, lie down comfortably and rest in a natural posture;
– The tether’s length and collar size is checked every other week and adjusted as necessary.
– Individual pens must allow for quality air circulation, provide opportunity for socialization, allow calves to stand without impediment, provide for normal resting postures, grooming, eating and lying down, and must be large enough to allow calves to turn around.
– By the time they are ten weeks old, veal calves must be housed in group pens. The regulations currently require that group pens meet the above standards required for individual pens and also must contain at least two calves with a minimum area of 14 square feet per calf, must separate calves of substantially different sizes and that calves must be monitored daily for naval and cross sucking and be moved to individual pens or provided other intervention for naval or cross sucking.
The veal regulations, including both the current rules and the rules that will become effective January 1, are available here.

Changes to dairy cattle regulations
There is only one change to the dairy care standards. As of January 1, docking the tails of dairy cattle will only be permissible if:
– Performed by a licensed veterinarian; and
– Determined to be medically necessary.
The dairy cattle standards, including the current tail docking rule and the rule that becomes effective January 1, are here.

More information is also available in this press release recently published by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and on the website for Ohio’s Livestock Care Stand

Sharpen Management Skills through Farm Management School

by: Amanda Douridas: Extension Educator

Managing your farm business is always important but the difference in just doing it and doing it well can be big during challenging times. When commodity prices are down, it is crucial to understand your balance sheet, maintain a good relationship with your lender and carefully consider budgets for next year. These topics will be covered during a 5 night Farm Management School in Urbana, Ohio beginning in December.

During the first session, learn how to properly complete your end of year balance sheet from Greg Knight with Civista Bank and Chris Bruynis, OSU Extension, will provide tips on tax issues that make the most sense for your farm business. During the next session, a panel of agricultural lenders will talk about what they would like to see from farmers before making a loan and will answer questions from the participants.

Legal issues can be very specific to agriculture and also very complicated. Peggy Kirk Hall, OSU Extension Agricultural Law Specialist, will discuss the legal issues that are most important to the class. Another complicated issue that can be difficult to make a decision on is healthcare. The fourth session will focus on the issues farmers face with healthcare and a healthcare professional will cover any changes and updates to the current system.

Lastly, Barry Ward, OSU Extension, will talk about commodity budgets for 2018 and take a look at cash flow to help you prepare for the 2018 season.

The session dates are Dec 6, 20, and Jan 3, 17 and 31. They begin at 5:30 pm with dinner and the program will run 6-8:00 pm. The cost to attend is $50 per farm and RSVPs are due Nov 27. Class space is limited so register early. Download the registration flyer at http://go.osu.edu/agevents. Childcare is available for $10 for the first child and $5 for each additional per night due day of. For questions about the program or to register with a credit card, please contact Amanda Douridas at 937-484-1526 or douridas.9@osu.edu.

U.S. Senate passes changes to federal Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act

Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill sponsored by Ohio senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman that intends to improve the federal response to water pollution by amending the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998.  Senate Bill 1057 will now move on to the House of Representatives for debate.

What are harmful algal blooms and hypoxia?

The EPA defines harmful algal blooms as “overgrowths of algae in water,” some of which “produce dangerous toxins in fresh or marine water.” The toxins can be dangerous for humans and animals. One major contributor to algal blooms is an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.  Hypoxiacan also be caused by too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. The EPA defines hypoxia as “low oxygen” in water. Hypoxia sometimes goes hand-in-hand with algal blooms, because as algae dies, it uses oxygen, which in turn removes oxygen from the water. Algal blooms and hypoxia have been a problem in Lake Erie and other parts of the country.

Background of the law

The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act was passed in 1998 in response to harmful algal blooms and hypoxia along the coast of the United States. When passing the law, Congress cited scientists who said both problems were caused by “excessive nutrients.” Furthermore, Congress found that harmful algal blooms had caused animal deaths, health and safety threats, and “an estimated $1,000,000,000 in economic losses” in the previous decade.

The law established an interagency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia (Task Force), which was charged with submitting an assessment to Congress on the “ecological and economic consequences” of both harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. The assessments were to include “alternatives for reducing, mitigating, and controlling” harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. A number of other reports and assessments were also required, which were to all culminate in a plan to combat and reduce the impacts of harmful algal blooms. Additionally, the Act singled out the areas of the Northern Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. For these two areas, the Act required additional progress reports and mitigation plans.

The Act has undergone a few amendments throughout the years. The amendments have expanded and/or renewed the duties of the Task Force and other state and federal actors. Most notably, amendments in 2014 created the national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program (Program) and a comprehensive research plan and action strategy. Under the Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was charged with administering funding to programs combatting algal blooms and hypoxia, working with state, local, tribal, and international governments to research and address algal blooms and hypoxia, and supervising the creation and review of the action strategy, among other duties. The action strategy identified the “specific activities” that the Program should carry out, which activities each agency in the Task Force would be responsible for, and the parts of the country where even more specific research and activities addressing algal blooms and hypoxia would be necessary.

What changes are proposed?

SB 1057 would make a number of changes and additions to the current law. Overall, the goal of the bill seems to be to strengthen the federal government’s ability to research and respond to water pollution in the form of algal blooms and hypoxia. The most important amendments in the bill would:

  • Add the Army Corps of Engineers to the list of agencies on the Task Force.
  • Combine the sections on freshwater and coastal algal blooms, and require that scientific assessments be submitted to Congress every five years for both types of water.
  • Establish a website that would provide information about the harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program (Program) activities to “local and regional stakeholders.”
  • Require the Task Force to work with extension programs to promote the Program and “improve public understanding” about harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.
  • Require the use of “cost effective methods” when carrying out the law.
  • Require the development of “contingency plans for the long-term monitoring of hypoxia.”
  • Fund the Program and the comprehensive research plan and action strategy from 2019 through 2023.

Most importantly, SB 1057 would add a completely new section to the law that would allow federal officials to “determine whether a hypoxia or harmful algal bloom event is an event of national significance.” Under the new language, the federal official can independently determine that such an event is occurring, or the Governor of an affected state can request that a determination to be made.

When making the determination, the federal official would have to take a number of factors into consideration including:

  • Toxicity of the harmful algal bloom;
  • Severity of the hypoxia;
  • Potential to spread;
  • Economic impact;
  • Relative size in relation to the past five occurrences of harmful algal blooms or hypoxia events that occur on a recurrent or annual basis; and
  • Geographic scope, including the potential to affect several municipalities, to affect more than one State, or to cross an international boundary.

Finally, in the case an event of national significance is found, the the federal official would have the power to give money to the affected state or locality to mitigate the damages. However, SB 1057 states that the federal share of money awarded cannot be more than 50% of the cost of any activity. The federal official would have the power to accept donations of “funds, services, facilities, materials, or equipment” to supplement the federal money.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. Text and information on SB 1057 is available here. To read the current law, click here. For further information on water pollution, check out the EPA’s pages on harmful algal blooms and hypoxia.

Proposal extends hunting and fishing license exemptions for grandchildren

By: Peggy Hall, Agricultural Law Specialist, OSUExtension

A bill in Ohio’s House of Representatives proposes amending Ohio’s hunting and fishing laws to expand exemptions from hunting, fishing and trapping licenses for grandchildren of landowners.

House Bill 272, sponsored by Rep. Householder (R—Glenford) and Rep. Kick (R—Loudonville) proposes a change to current law, which permits grandchildren to hunt, fish or trap on their grandparent’s land without a license only up to the age of 18.  The proposal revises the law to allow grandchildren “of any age” to be exempt from licensing requirements when hunting, fishing or trapping on their grandparent’s land.

The bill also extends hunting and fishing privileges to veterans. The proposed legislation would provide a partially disabled veteran the same free hunting and fishing license privilege currently afforded to a veteran with a total disability.

“Hunting and fishing are family activities,” said Rep. Householder upon introducing the bill. “They should be enjoyed without government intrusion.”

H.B. 272 is currently before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is available for viewing here.

Ohio Will Soon Permit Certain Agricultural Utility Vehicles to Travel on Public Roads

Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

A new Ohio law affects farmers that plan to use certain utility vehicles this planting season, including Gators, Mules and other utility vehicles with a bed designed to transport cargo. The new law is part of the 2018-2019 transportation budget, formally known as House Bill 26. HB 26, which goes into effect on June 30, 2017, permits vehicles to travel on any public road or right of way—other than a freeway, when travelling from one farm field to another for agricultural purposes.

Under HB 26, utility vehicles are now expressly required to display a triangular Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem. Previously, it was up to local law enforcement to interpret the law and decide whether a utility vehicle should have a SMV. The new law also clearly allows utility vehicles to travel on public roads between farm fields, whereas the old law required farmers to know whether the county or township allowed utility vehicles on the road. Utility vehicle operators can read more about the old law in our previous blog post on APVs, ATVs, and four-wheelers here.

What Qualifies as a “Utility Vehicle?”

Farmers should be aware that this law only covers what it defines as “utility vehicles.” This means that the law only applies to vehicles designed with a bed, for transporting material or cargo related to agricultural activities. Not all ATVs and APVs will be included in this definition.

What to Know Before Driving a Utility Vehicle on the Road

The law is good news for farmers who plan to use utility vehicles this season. If farmers plan to use a utility vehicle on the farm, they should know the following before taking the vehicle out:

  • In order to use a utility vehicle on a public road, a driver must be traveling from one farm field to another farm field for agricultural purposes.
  • Utility vehicle drivers must display a SMV on any utility vehicle used on a public road as it travels between farm fields.
  • Ohio Revised Code Section 5589.10 prohibits the placement of earth, mud, manure, or other injurious materials on a public highway. Therefore, farmers should avoid leaving such debris in the roadway or clean up the roadway if a utility vehicle leaves mud behind.

More information on HB 26 is here, under Sec. 4511.216 on page 328 of the bill.

Selling Foods at the Farm: When Do You Need a License?

By: Peggy Hall, Leader, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, many producers may be considering selling produce, meats, cottage foods and baked goods directly to consumers at the farm property. A question we often hear from farmers thinking about these types of farm food sales is, “do I need some type of license or inspection to sell food from the farm?” The answer to this question depends upon the type of food offered for sale:

  • Sales of foods such as fresh produce or cottage foods do not require a license.
  • Sales of certain types of baked goods require a home bakery license.
  • Sales of multiple types of foods or higher risk foods require a farm market registration or a retail food establishment (RFE) license.
  • The home bakery license, farm market registration, and RFE license involve inspections of the production or sales area.

It is important for a producer to carefully assess the food sales situation and comply with the appropriate licensing or registration requirements. To do so, a producer should identify the type and number of food products he or she will sell and whether the food poses low or high food safety risk.

Our new Law Bulletin, Selling Foods at the Farm: When Do You Need a License? will help producers assess their situations and determine their needs for appropriate licensing, registration, or inspections.  Read the bulletin on http://farmoffice.osu.edu, here.

Ohio’s Western Basin of Lake Erie will not be listed as ‘impaired’

Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally rendered a decision on Ohio’s list of impaired waters following several months of delay and two lawsuits filed to compel the EPA to make a decision. (For a background on impaired waters and the two lawsuits, check out our previous blog posts here and here.)   On May 19, 2017, the EPA decided to accept the Ohio EPA’s proposed list of impaired waters for the State of Ohio.  Ohio’s list does not include the open waters in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.   However, the State of Michigan’s list of impaired waters previously approved by the EPA does include the open waters in its portion of the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

The EPA explained that the agency deferred to Ohio’s judgment not to include the open waters of the Western Basin of Lake Erie on the impaired waters list.  “EPA recognizes the State’s ongoing efforts to control nutrient pollution in the Western Basin of Lake Erie,” stated Chris Korleski, EPA’s Region 5 Water Division Director and previously Ohio’s EPA Director.   “EPA understands that Ohio EPA intends to evaluate options for developing objective criteria (e.g., microcystin or other metrics) for use in making decisions regarding the Western Basin for the 2018 list.  EPA expects the development of appropriate metrics, and is committed to working with you on them.”

For now, the EPA appears satisfied with Ohio’s plan for addressing nutrient reductions in Lake Erie’s Western Basin.  It is possible, however, that additional lawsuits could be filed against the EPA in order to reconcile Ohio and Michigan’s different designations of water in the same general area.

Read the EPA’s Approval of Ohio’s Submission of the State’s Integrated Report with Respect to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act here.

Another lawsuit filed over Ohio’s list of impaired waters

Written by Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

On May 17, 2017, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and two of its members filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.  ELPC filed the lawsuit to compel the EPA to either accept or reject Ohio’s list of impaired waters.  In April, the National Wildlife Federation and other groups sued the EPA in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the same reason.  For more information on the first lawsuit and a more thorough background on the topic, read our previous blog post.

Federal regulation under the Clean Water Act requires states to submit lists every two years of waters they determine to be impaired.  The regulation also requires the EPA to either accept or reject the state listings within thirty days.  The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency submitted its list of impaired waters on October 20, 2016.  The list did not include the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie.  The EPA has not made a decision on Ohio’s list.

To make the situation more complex, Michigan did include its share of the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie on its list.  What is more, the EPA approved of Michigan’s impaired waters list.  The plaintiffs in both of these lawsuits seem to hope that forcing the EPA to make a decision on Ohio’s impaired list will resolve the differences in the two states’ listing of waters in the same general area of Lake Erie.

ELPC filed the lawsuit in the Toledo office of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, citing its proximity to Lake Erie, and in particular, to the pollution problem in the western basin of the lake.   ELPC’s press release on its lawsuit is available here.

Ohio Senate Passes CAUV Bill

Source: Peggy Hall, Ohio Agricultural Law Specialist

Ohio’s Senate has settled on its solution for fixing Ohio’s CAUV formula. The Senate unanimously passed S.B. 36  yesterday after the Senate Ways and Means Committee adopted two amendments to the bill.  The legislation aims to stem recent increases in property taxes for farmland enrolled in Ohio’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program.   The Senate’s bill will ensure that the CAUV formula “sticks to valuing farmland based on agricultural production,” stated the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay).

In addition to including new factors in the CAUV formula,  making changes to the capitalization rate calculation and addressing rates used for conservation lands (explained in detail in our earlier post on S.B. 36), the bill passed by the Senate yesterday contained two new provisions:

  • A three year phase-in of the changes to the CAUV formula, which would begin the first tax year after 2016 in which a county’s sexennial appraisal or triennial update occurs.  The purpose of the phase-in is to reduce the financial impact of lowered property valuations on school districts.
  • Replacement of the seven year rolling average determination of the equity yield rate with an equity yield rate that equals the 25-year average of the “total rate of return on farm equity” determined by the United States Department of Agriculture but that cannot exceed the loan interest rate used in the debt factor of the capitalization rate computation.

Last week, Ohio’s House passed legislation containing different solutions for revising the CAUV program in H.B. 49 (see our summary of H.B. 49 here).  Senate leaders yesterday indicated a willingness to work with the House to resolve the differences between the two bills.  H.B. 49 is now before the Senate Finance Committee.

Read S.B. 36 as amended here.  The Legislative Service Commmission’s summary of the bill is here.

USDA Seeks Public Comment on Postponed GIPSA Rules

Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is delaying the implementation of the Farmer Fair Practices rules. GIPSA is a USDA agency that facilitates the marketing of livestock, poultry, meat, cereals, oilseeds, and related agricultural products. One purpose of GIPSA is to promote fair and competitive trading practices for the benefit of consumers and agriculture.

On April 11, 2017, the USDA announced that GIPSA delayed the implementation of the Farmer Fair Practices rules until October 19, 2017. The delayed Farmer Fair Practices rules were originally set to be effective on December 20, 2016. According to the USDA, the delayed rules would protect chicken growers from retaliation by processors when growers explore opportunities with other processors, discuss quality concerns with processors, or when refusing to make expensive upgrades to facilities. GIPSA concludes that the Farmer Fair Practices rules alleviates these issues. However, several livestock groups argue that the delayed rules would have adverse economic effects on the livestock industry.

Opportunity for Public Comment

During the delay, the USDA is seeking public comment on the Farmer Fair Practices rules. The comment period offers the agricultural community an opportunity to suggest what action the USDA should take in regard to the Farmer Fair Practices rules. The USDA asked the public to suggest one of four actions that the USDA should take:

  1. Let the delayed rules become effective
  2. Suspend the delayed rules indefinitely
  3. Delay the effective date of the delayed rules further, or
  4. Withdraw the delayed rules

After receiving public comments, the USDA will consider the comments and make an informed decision regarding the delayed Farmer Fair Practices rules. According to Drovers, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently visited Kansas City, Missouri to speak with farmers, ranchers, and industry members. During the event, Secretary Perdue responded to a question about the GIPSA rule. “We’re going to look at it very closely,” said Perdue. The full Drovers article is here.

More information on the delayed GISPA rules is here. Leave a public comment on the delayed rules here by clicking “Comment Now.”