Ohio2006 Blog

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Sunday, August 27

Ohio House 81st: Opfer (D) Calls for Mega-Farm Moratorium

Former State Rep. Darrell Opfer (D-Oak Harbor) is challenging Rep. Jeff Wagner (R-Sycamore) in the 81st Ohio House District, located in Seneca, Sandusky, and Ottawa Counties. At the Sandusky County Fair on Friday, Opfer called for a moratorium on mega-farms, saying the temporary ban is necessary to conduct a study of Ohio Department of Agriculture regulations and inspections, with the participation of watershed quality groups, soil and water conservation boards, and state and local health departments.

Mega-farms are a huge issue in rural Ohio. The shutting down of Buckeye Egg Farm in 2003 after repeateded violations raised public awareness of the environmental risks posed by industrial farms. Two such farms are planning to start operations in Sandusky County, each to have more than 2,000 cows. Area residents have organized the Sandusky County Citizens Protecting our Natural Resources to oppose the mega-farms. Members wore "Say No to Dairy-Air" tee shirts at the county fair.

From the news coverage in the Fremont News Messenger:
Opfer argued Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, can potentially cause damage to the environment by polluting groundwater and streams. The large number of cows on such a farm creates so much liquid manure, he argued it may seep into cracks in the ground and eventually contaminate Lake Erie. Citing Buckeye Egg as an example, Opfer argued the factory farms have a history of ignoring regulations in their permits. "I am not saying industrial farms are not viable," Opfer said, "but I don't want to see industry farms supplant family farms." ...

Thomas Younker [a member of the Sandusky County Citizens Protecting Our Natural Resources] said the concern for his group is the health of its residents. He argued while a farm owned and run by one family has a vested interest in the community, employees at a much larger farm are not likely to have the same motivations.

"The basic question boils down to who is minding the farm," Opfer said. "Who should be minding the farms of the future?
Rep. Wagner dismissed Opfer's call for a moratorium as a political move. He noted that there are many large farms subject to permitting requirements. "I'm not promoting large farms," Wagner said, "but I'm also not standing against them just because they're big."

Opfer received a bachelors and masters degree in education from Bowling Green State University and taught in Kenya in the Peace Corps from 1965 to 1967. After teaching high school for fourteen years in his home town of Genoa, Opfer served ten years as Ottawa County Commissioner, eight years as State Representative for the 80th District, and four years as Economic Development Director in Ottawa County. Due to redistricting, he is now a resident of the 81st District.

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