CANTON, Ohio — A bio-revolution is taking place in Ohio’s agriculture industry and its impact will increase agriculture’s importance here in the Buckeye State.
That’s the way Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Robert Boggs sees it.
During his visit Sept. 4 to the Stark County Fair, the ODA director said there are many challenges facing agriculture right now and more lie ahead — but so do a lot of opportunities.
“Ohio’s agriculture is right smack in the middle of a bio-revolution,” Boggs said.
He sees options for agriculture in the field of bio-energy, growing local foods and the growth of local farmers markets, in addition to the production and harvesting of Ohio-grown food.
The advances in nutrition for animals and better genetics in animals bred for food have been phenomenal and are helping keep agriculture a viable industry, Boggs added.
Boggs said farmers are able to produce more food at reasonable prices “not just for America, but the rest of the earth as well.”
As far as the future for agriculture, Boggs said he thinks better times are ahead.
“Agriculture is an economic engine that is going to get us out of this economic malaise we are in right now,” Boggs said.
He added that if it wasn’t for agriculture in Ohio, the state would be facing an even worse economic picture.
Boggs said he spoke with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the state of the dairy and pork industry and he is confident the USDA will be able to assist both industries with the programs recently announced.
Boggs said he also views a revamp of the dairy pricing system across the country, which he feels will help stabilize the industry, as a real possibility with Vilsack’s leadership.
Another subject Boggs touched on was Issue 2, the ballot issue asking Ohio voters to approve an amendment to the constitution to create an Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
The proposed amendment would require the state to create the Livestock Care Standards Board, which will prescribe standards for animal care and well-being that endeavor to maintain food safety, encourage locally grown and raised food and protect Ohio farms and families.
Boggs said everyone should be in favor of the amendment for one simple reason: It will, for the first time in Ohio’s history, set a single set of standards for livestock.
“Currently there are 88 different standards in 88 counties. There are very little regulation or no regulation in most counties,” Boggs said.
In addition, Boggs said it will also require enforcement of the standards, which will also be an asset because without a set of regulations, enforcement of any type was difficult.
He added the system the state has now is not working and a fix has to be found, but it has to be a fix that won’t hurt farmers.
The Humane Society of the United States had been adamantly opposed to the constitutional amendment and instead wanted to be the one that created the regulations, Boggs said.
“We hope to come up with a compromise. No one will be totally happy with the regulations we adopt in the end, but we hope both sides will be able to accept them,” he said.
Boggs said too many people want to limit farmers and what they are able to produce and do. He is finding, however, those limits are not based on science or a higher thinking, but instead on emotions and misconceptions, and that, in his opinion, just can’t happen.