State Representatives Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) and Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) today announced the unanimous passage of House Bill 276 from the Ohio House of Representatives.
House Bill 276, which Buchy and Gentile jointly sponsored, clarifies the definition of agriculture as it pertains to Ohio zoning laws, a change that will enable farmers to use farm byproducts for bio-energy production without cumbersome regulations that currently deter this environmentally friendly activity. The bill also adds algaculture to the definition of agriculture, clarifying the farming of algae as an agricultural process under Ohio law.
“By including algaculture under Ohio agricultural law, we are promoting Ohio as a state committed to new forms of agriculture,” said Buchy. “Potential expansion of the industry in Ohio is expected and jobs will be available as the industry expands.”
House Bill 276 defines the production of bio-energy from anaerobic digesters as agriculture in nature if at least 50 percent of the feedstock that was used to produce the fuel was derived from land under common ownership. This advancement will allow farmers to use anaerobic digesters as a part of a nutrient management plan or to consume any other agricultural organic byproduct.
“This bill is about being green,” Gentile said. “By using more of our agricultural products available on the farm, we are keeping the excess nutrients from polluting our environment. As energy sources become scarce, Ohio agriculture can be the source of renewable product replacements.”
House Bill 276 also defines algaculture—the farming of algae—in the Ohio Revised Code as agriculture. Algae can be harvested from controlled water sources and turned into fuels, plastics, pharmaceuticals and many other products. The vote today was the first step in Ohio’s potential move to be the first state in the country to recognize algaculture as an agricultural process.
"This bill encourages economic growth and seeks to protect our environment by using agricultural products in new ways,” said Gentile. “Algaculture has the potential to remove phosphorous from water before it reaches larger bodies of water and affects recreation and natural habitats.”
In House Bill 276, algaculture is defined throughout the Ohio Revised Code to be treated as an agricultural commodity. Algae thrive off nutrients commonly known to pollute rural waterways. The advancements of algaculture and anaerobic digesters are expected to aid in the cleanup of Ohio water by aiding in the removal of phosphorous and other nutrients.
“In western Ohio we are taking water quality seriously,” Buchy said. “The farming of non-toxic algae in a controlled environment and the use of anaerobic digesters will aid in keeping phosphorous out of our rivers and streams. For farmers in Mercer, Darke, Shelby, and Auglaize counties, digesters and algae ponds will go hand-in-hand to keep nutrients out of Grand Lake St. Marys and keep algae from growing in places that we don’t want it.”
House Bill 276 will now be sent to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.