EATON — The Preble Soil and Water Conservation District hosted an informational meeting with Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) Director Dorothy Pelanda on Monday, March 4.
District 43 Representative J. Todd Smith and Senator Steve Huffman also spoke during the meeting.
Pelanda began the meeting by making a statement on dog breeders.
“Currently, certain members of the Ohio Legislature are looking into whether or not certain definitions need to be revised or changed. I am happy to work with the legislature along those lines. Those are the extent of my comments on dog breeders,” she said.
She added, they came out to Preble County to talk about soil and water conservation. According to Pelanda, Governor Mike DeWine identified clean water and soil issues as a top priority for his administration. She believes water quality is an issue for every Ohioan. She added, the people closest to the problems have the solution.
According to Pelanda, the Department of Agriculture is excited about the Farm Bill exempting hemp from the schedule of drugs, allowing states to consider the growing of hemp for the first time. Senate Bill 57 would order the Director of Agriculture to create rules and regulations surrounding the cultivation of hemp and its bi-products. There was also a bill recently introduced in the House which speaks specifically about the acreage involved and what could be produced there.
Senator Huffman shared more information on SB57 and the proposed House Bill. Representative Smith talked about the various committees he is a part of.
“The best ideas that we have in Columbus do not come from Columbus, they come from you. That is why we want to hear from you. If we hear you bring up something, and I will say this, the hemp is a grassroots effort for farmer’s to say, ‘This is a crop that we can grow, can we get in on this? Other states have already passed laws to allow that to happen and we are going to be behind times if we don’t start opening that up right now.’ That came from people like you,” Smith said.
“You may be wondering, ‘Well, Dorothy, you were going to talk about water quality and you started talking about hemp.’ Well, we talked about cover crops and barriers as one part of water quality solutions. Hemp has amazing properties to be used as a cover crop. This is why the two issues are tied in together,” Pelanda said.
“There are two types of hemp, from my understanding. The first is the industrial type that will grow 12-13 feet high that is often made into paper, clothing, different things like that. There is also the medicinal that is made into CBD oil. Right now, 80 percent of hemp is made into CBD oil. People use it for arthritis, chiropractors use it, and it is used for things like that,” Huffman said.
“One of the good things about hemp is, it is known to take the toxins out of soil. If you put it as a bumper crop, between the streams and fields, it is known to take out the metals before it gets into the stream.”
The group also discussed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights which recently passed in the City of Toledo. According to Pelanda, this bill would allow a private citizen to sue a farm if they could prove the farmer had been the cause of a Lake Erie Algae Bloom. She discussed “affirmative defenses” that farmers could take, including: engaging in a soil test plan and nutrient management plan or joining an agricultural district.
National Trail Miami Valley Career Technical Center (MVCTC) FFA members attended the meeting and were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about their futures and interests.
Pelanda also opened the floor up to public participation. Comments included:
•Preble County being the home to Twin Creek, which is one of the top two streams in the State of Ohio. There are intensive agriculture operations surrounding the stream, which shows the possibility of producing crops without polluting the water. This speaker urged Pelanda to proceed careful, as there are no two situations the same and it is impossible to pass one rule for the entire state.
“There is not one solution that works for every part of our state and every farmer. That is one of the purposes of this meeting, to listen to farmers, listen to what practices they’re engaged in, and what help they’re looking to see from the governor as he looks to improving water quality for every citizen of Ohio,” Pelanda said.
•The two proposed Preble County Solar Facilities were discussed at length. Representatives from Concerned Citizens of Preble County attended the meeting to inform Pelanda of these projects and the concerns they have with how the two projects will affect the area.
•Questions regarding ODA testing lab cuts and if the new administration would staff the labs appropriately or continue running on a “skeleton crew.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH