DeWine Advocates for Agriculture By: Haley Plahuta

The New Governor

As Bill Morris watches the sky fade from orange to purple and finally to faint pink on his wheat farm in Gomer, Ohio, he can’t help but think about the three generations before him who watched the same sunset and farmed the same land he stands on now.

“The colors are brilliant; there’s a certain reverence about being there and being part of the earth,” said Morris, who owns farms in Allen, Putnam and Adams counties where he grows wheat, soybeans, corn and popcorn. Anyone involved in the agricultural industry knows being on the farm isn’t always as peaceful as the sunset Morris described, and the sun going down doesn’t always signal the end of the day’s work. Complex issues arise all the time that demand farmers’ attention. With Gov. Mike DeWine in office, farmers like Morris feel the major agricultural concerns will be dealt with.

“DeWine is a farmer, so he will be a friend of agriculture,” said Morris. “He’ll be good for Ohio ag.”
Photo courtesy of governor.ohio.gov

A Background in Agriculture

The governor grew up in Greene County, where he worked at his family’s seed business, DeWine Seeds, and the Ohio Twine Co.

“I worked in the fields and loaded bags onto boxcars. It taught me the values of hard work, personal responsibility and of honoring my word,” DeWine wrote in a column.“ Our agricultural economy is benefitting from a return to regulatory sanity. God knows farming is hard enough without the added burden of having to worry if someone from the government is going to come knocking on the door,” said DeWine.

Tony Seegers, state policy director for the Ohio Farm BureauFederation (OFBF), expects DeWine’s experience in agriculture will be a unique asset to him as he serves as governor.

“It’s that work ethic that you get working on a farm,” said Seegers. “It’s getting up at all hours of the morning and just taking that risk every year when you plant your crops or you get your livestock,what the market’s going to be and having that appreciation when the farm economy isn’t doing as well.”

Seegers foresees having a voice for the agricultural industry under DeWine.“

DeWine is going to be more receptive to hearing what agriculture needs and what we want to work with him on. We will have more of an ear there with Gov. DeWine,” said Seegers.

Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture Dorothy Pelanda shared that DeWine has tasked her and the directors of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Department of Natural Resources to study existing data and to propose soil management based on the data.

“To that end, I have created an immediate ‘listening tour’ spanning the state to meet with farmers and experts to hear their histories, perspectives and ideas on the subject. Food safety and amusement ride safety also top the list of the governor’s priorities,” said Pelanda.

DeWine’s priorities are to end the opioid epidemic in Ohio, close the education gap and prepare young people for 21st century jobs and improve economic development efforts throughout Ohio.

Water Quality

Throughout the last 15 years, harmful algal blooms have increased in frequency and severity in the Lake Erie western basin impacting fisheries, recreational industries, property values and causing serious risks to local residents including ‘do not drink’ advisories.

Many other Ohio lakes continue to battle blooms, keeping water quality at the top of issues.

“We’re all working together and trying to work toward a solution. We’ve got to find a better solution to the nutrient runoff that were facing so everyone is working toward it, we really are,” said Sen. Bob Hackett, chair of the Ohio Senate Agriculture Committee in the 132 General Assembly.

DeWine plans to keep working toward cleaner water throughout the state. “We’re still working out the numbers, but when you see our budget, you will see a real commitment to the Great Lakes—to water quality,” DeWine said during the Ohio Farm Bureau’s annual Ag Day, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Gov. DeWine at Ag Day, courtesy of Ohio Farm Bureau

The Ohio Farm Bureau will also continue to work toward solving the water quality issue.

“We’re all excited to work on water quality together and finding solutions for Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s, and frankly improving all of our water throughout the state,” said Seegers.

DeWine supports current research into water quality. Based on the research, a $1 billion bond issue to improve water quality throughout Ohio will potentially be introduced.

Hackett is confident that the bond issue will aid farmers across Ohio. “Not just in the western basin, the dollars would go all over the state to improve and help farmers. The statewide bond issue may be an outstanding solution,”he said. The bond will go through the resolution process and eventually go to the ballot to be voted on.

Economic Development

While in office, DeWine plans to address economic development through economic innovation and trade with Ohio’s number-one industry, agribusiness.

This economic development includes value-added businesses such as wineries and breweries popping up throughout Ohio.Farmers like Morris look forward to seeing more agricultural businesses throughout the state, lauding DeWine’s “entrepreneurial spirit.”

In order to continue building economic development throughout the state, it is important for Ohio State and other academic institutions to educate students and prepare them for the agricultural industry.

“As they are looking more holistically at the workforce, and how we educate our students for that workforce, that’s critical for us, so giving students more experiential learning,” said Adam Ward, director of government relations for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

One of DeWine’s top priorities is to prepare young people for 21st century jobs. The Ohio Farm Bureau lists workforce development for young farmers as a top agricultural priority.

“It’s really hard for those folks to get into agriculture, so we’re looking forward to working on that issue, helping young farmers and beginning farmers get started,” said Seegers.

Hackett also feels it is important to attract more young people to the agricultural industry.

“We’re trying to get more and more young people into agriculture but not always in the traditional jobs,” said Hackett.

Students studying agriculture at Ohio State learn the latest in technology, including precision agriculture,to prepare for jobs after graduation. Ward explained it is critical for people who are studying agriculture or environmental programs to understand in the future, there willbe a lot of land changing hands.

“There’s a ton of opportunities for young farmers to get started when those lands begin to change hands and making sure that they have the right tools to be able to start their farm and understand the investment that it takes is kind of our role in helping them,” said Ward.

While in office, DeWine plans to find a solution to water quality, continue growing economic development and help young and beginning farmers start successful agricultural operations. From growing up working on his family’s farm, DeWine understands the importance of the agricultural industry and also the risk involved with agriculture.

“The great thing about Gov. DeWine is that he has a long history with agriculture,” said Hackett. “Mike understands that today, tomorrow, way in the future there’s not going to be a more important industry than agriculture because we feed the world.”

Governor DeWine's Recovery Ohio Plan

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