Ohio crop producers are growing concerned with environmental policy in their state. According to a report by Heartlander Magazine, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is urging federal and state agencies to shift from qualitative assessments of water bodies to quantitative assessments. This would attach hard and fast numbers to efforts aimed at reducing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the watershed.
But Mary McCleary, vice president of policy at Opportunity Ohio calls it an unfair situation for farmers. The Heartlander quotes McCleary, "Through these proposed regulations, unelected bureaucrats could effectively put Ohio farms out of business or reduce their productivity, thereby also reducing the value of their land. These regulations will only further stifle job growth and economic recovery in Ohio."
Farm advocates note that agriculture does contribute to nitrogen and phosphate in the watershed, but sorting out how much comes from industrial activity and sewage, and how much originates on the farm is nearly impossible. Similar restrictions were proposed in Florida in 2011 when that state's Dept. of Agriculture estimated new N&P restrictions would end up costing Florida's agricultural sector as much as $21 billion per year.
Director of policy at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Florida told the Heartlander, "As often occurs, environmental regulators arguably have set unrealistic standards not rooted in sound science or common sense. Regarding runoff from sugarcane fields near Lake Okeechobee, for instance, farmers complain that they’re told the runoff is supposed to be 'cleaner than rainwater.'"
As the nation's growers and the Environmental Protection Agency work to clean up the watershed, environmental activists are proposing regulations that make ag-friendly policy analysts very nervous. Common sense has always been the hallmark of successful farming and critics say that is what is missing from the proposed Ohio rules.
As the divide between urban and rural life broadens it is vital the voice of agriculture be heard. A great deal of appreciation for crop and livestock production has been lost on recent generations of America's youth. At the same time, environmental protection has become scholastic dogma, demonizing the use of chemical fertilizers and stifling America's petroleum potential.
If environmental activism is not stopped at farming's front door, the consequences could reduce farm income, reduce land values and put at risk a way of life that has nourished this nation, nearly from its inception. In his own writings on Common Sense at the birth of this nation, Thomas Paine wrote, "When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon." Management practices should be examined and careful thought put into individual efforts on nutrient runoff reduction. But if environmentalist activists are allowed to impose rules on matters they do not understand, life on the farm could look very different to the generations that follow us.