Unfortunately, now is not a time to be very proud of my home state. In recent-ish news (sorry for the delay guys!) Toledo citizens passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) in a special election. The agricultural implications and impact reached far in wide. So far in fact, I heard a speaker address the subject the day it passed as I sat in Reno attending the Western Dairy Management Conference.
The Ohio Farm Bureau was quick to voice their concerns immediately. OFBF had done a pretty decent job of raising member awareness to this issue prior to the election. I have a slew of emails from them in my inbox and heard some updates in-person when I attended their Young Ag Professionals Conference. I give them kudos to doing their jobs and being on the frontlines fighting these battles for us.
Speaking of which, here is a bit from their recent article on the subject:
“LEBOR grants rights to Lake Erie and empowers any Toledo citizen to file lawsuits on behalf of the lake. It gives Toledoans authority over nearly 5 million Ohioans, thousands of farms, more than 400,000 businesses and every level of government in 35 northern Ohio counties plus parts of Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York and Canada.”
It has been repeatedly stressed LEBOR was passed although there are some legal opinions that the provisions are unconstitutional. At the moment, a farmer from Wood County is stepping up to file a lawsuit challenging the bill on grounds of constitutionality. He has the full backing and support of the OFBF in this pursuit and I wish him the best of luck.
Others who oppose the bill have been quick to point only a small number of voters turned out to the pass the bill. Likewise, as the lake is owned by the state, the issue should have been properly addressed by the whole state and not in a district court. (The lake isn’t owned nor regulated by those who happen to live near it, after all.)
One issue agricultural faces when put into these kinds of legal battles is that supporters of these kinds of bills argue “If you’re against us then you’re against clean water!” (and no I’m not exaggerating. Check out some of the social media comments!) This is of course ridiculous, farmers and their supporting organizations share the same environmental concerns the rest of us do. The state and national farm bureaus have repeated voiced their willingness and eagerness to find solutions to preserve our Great Lakes and other national resources. But passing bills that intentionally put an unjustified target on individuals backs? Not a solution, not by a long shot.
We’re optimistic we will overturn this bill and find better solutions that positively impact our farmers, citizens and most importantly, our natural resources. Stay tuned!
There is a dash of positive news! A preliminary injunction has been passed which will pause the enforcement of LEBOR as the lawsuit moves forward. Below is an email from the Ohio Farm Bureau to members.
“For several weeks your Farm Bureau has been making you aware of the possible threat of lawsuits against farmers after Toledo citizens passed an ordinance that would give Lake Erie rights in court. While there’s still a long road ahead, today we wanted to share some positive news with you.
On March 18, U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary issued a preliminary injunction pausing enforcement of the recently passed Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). This action stems from a lawsuit filed by Wood County farmer Mark Drewes the day after Toledo voters passed LEBOR in a special election.
Farm Bureau stands strong with Mark and his family and we appreciate that this injunction will prevent the law from taking effect while the case filed by the Drewes family is litigated.
We are happy to see the Court order a preliminary injunction delaying the enforcement of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. This decision is one step closer to protecting farmers in the Lake Erie Watershed from costly lawsuits brought on by LEBOR.
Although Ohio Farm Bureau understands that this process will take some time, time is of the essence. Soon, the 2019 planting season will begin and it is our hope that our farmers in the Lake Erie watershed can get their seeds into the ground without the possibility of lawsuits resulting from LEBOR hanging over their heads.
We will be watching all developments in Toledo as it pertains to this case and will keep you updated as new information becomes available.”