Agriculture employs one in seven Ohioans and contributes over $100 billion a year to our state economy. For years, Ohio has been a leading exporter of soybeans, corn, eggs, and cheese. Ohio farms feed the nation and the world; we must assure that our complex environmental and economic challenges don’t change that. Farmers must have 21st century tools and strategies along with support to adapt to new challenges.
When our farms and our farmers are secure and faring well, our rural communities and small towns thrive. But farm communities face one particularly daunting problem that calls for a comprehensive plan of action right now: the opioid crisis.
Half of those in rural communities report that they, a family member, or a friend have been directly affected by opioid abuse. For farmers and farm workers, it’s almost 75%. A recurring theme among those surveyed was the extraordinary lack of drug treatment facilities or programs in rural areas. We support the efforts of the “Farm Town Strong” movement to provide resources and information to farm communities and encourage farmer-to-farmer support to overcome the crisis.
These challenges are magnified by falling prices for beef, poultry, and pork. Half of our 4,400 dairy farms have been shuttered since 2006. Possible changes in U.S. trade policy pose substantial risks of retaliation that could threaten our farmers and our economy. We need to integrate resources across Ohio to help small communities create jobs and businesses around the agricultural supply chain. Farm communities must benefit from rural development opportunities to counter the challenges they face. Interest in local food eco-systems has never been higher and must be met with action. Ohio farms can continue to feed our state and nation.
What the Cordray-Sutton Administration Will Do
- Appoint an Assistant Director of Food Policy and Rural Development in the Ohio Department of Agriculture – Consolidating agricultural and agribusiness functions now at JobsOhio and the Development Services Agency would help expand agricultural export efforts and address effects of possible changes in U.S. trade policy. Reconvening the ODA Food Policy Council with experts from private food businesses; food banks; farm and environmental groups; and other spheres will help build partnerships and inform focused improvements in farm policy.
- Support Ohio Farmers with Strategic Business and Technical Resources – Family farms often end up consolidating for lack of effective succession planning. Strategic support and increased technical resources from the OSU Extension program along with targeted planning and collaboration from ODA officials would help optimize farming operations and help maintain more small farms.
- Target the Disproportionate Rural Impact of the Opioid Crisis – Expanded opioid treatment and health care (as discussed in our Opioid Crisis paper) is crucial in rural Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health must identify rural public buildings that can be fully or partially repurposed as opioid treatment facilities. And we must work with USDA’s Ohio Rural Development Agency to provide Community Facilities Loans and grants to fund the conversion of these facilities.
The Cordray-Sutton Proven Record on Agriculture and Farming
- As Ohio Treasurer, Rich improved and expanded access to GrowNOW and Agricultural Linked Deposit Programs. Applicants from all over Ohio created or saved thousands of jobs. Rich’s office invested more than $295 million directly into Ohio small businesses and agricultural enterprises through the programs.
- In Congress, Betty co-sponsored the National Endowment for Workforce Education in Renewables and Agriculture Act, which sought to create grants to community colleges and advanced technology education centers in Midwestern states to support education and training of technicians in the fields of bioenergy and other agricultural and renewable energy resources.