Local farmers face some negativity with legal trends, according to Ohio State’s agriculture law expert, Peggy Kirk, who spoke at the Farmer’s Breakfast in Plain City on Friday.
She explained the many voices involved with proposed regulations, laws and allegations in the agricultural industry — those who could change agriculture and how food is produced.
“How is the Ag community supposed to be reacting to some of these issues, these food fights?” said Kirk, an assistant professor with the Ohio State Agricultural and Resource Law Program.
A significant issue involves GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) versus non-GMO. She said that some states, such as North Dakota passed the North Dakota Farming and Ranching Agreement, which states that farmers can grow food in a way that they see fit.
She said that regulation of agricultural nutrients is another legal trend she worries about. She explained that a lot of people are concerned, especially “when there’s a lot of data that points to the impact of our nutrients getting into waters.”
This has been causing water quality issues and Kirk said that during the Obama administration, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed to get states to address this problem.
“[The federal EPA] are certainly putting some information out there about what’s going on with nutrient pollution,” said Kirk. “But I don’t see the same leadership, the same push to get states to do something about it.”
She explained that farmers have been stepping up to address this issue, but many don’t see that as enough to “sufficiently address the problem.” In Iowa, the Des Moines Water Works Case stirred public opinion, resulting in a litigation battle.
The state of Maryland is probably the most restrictive state, Kirk said, as well as the most proactive state regarding nutrient management. Maryland implemented a Nutrient Management and Regulations Law, requiring all farmers to have a nutrient management plan. They could be subject to fines and penalties if they don’t comply with the plan.
“Here in Ohio we’re still in a different place where there’s a lot of effort to just increase education,” said Kirk. “So that we fully understand why nutrients escape our properties.”
Other legal trends that Kirk highlighted included: agricultural data and who owns that data; the federal EPA’s new Waters of the United States rule; the Dicamba drift; the 2018 increase in bankruptcy filings; and, estate and succession planning on family farms.
To stay updated on legal trends which could affect Ohio, sign up for the free Ohio Ag Law Blog at www.farmoffice.osu.edu.
The 2018 Farmers Breakfast series is hosted by the Ohio State Extension. The next meeting will be Friday, Mar. 9 at Der Dutchman in Plain City, featuring Fred Yoder, Trump Agricultural Advisory Committee, speaking on: What’s going on in Washington, 2018 Farm Bill and U.S. Ag Committee update. Contact Mary Griffith at 740-852-0975 or firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Amanda Rockhold is a staff writer for Rural Life. She can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617.