WOOSTER, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich helped open the first day of the Ohio State Fair with a declaration intended to give farmers full opportunity for state and federal drought assistance.
Kasich signed an executive order instructing state agencies to help farmers reduce the impacts of drought, while urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give Ohio farmers access to drought-related federal assistance such as emergency low-interest loans for crop losses, relief payments for non-insurable losses, the temporary deferral of payments on federal loans and permission to cut hay for livestock from acreage otherwise set aside for conservation.
Ohio Agriculture Director David Daniels said the state is in “a natural progression of things getting worse,” with some counties more so than others, but generally widespread dryness that has extended across the Midwest and most of the country.
He said the state declaration was to “open up possible avenues” of assistance that may not have already been tapped.
On Monday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA’s latest drought response efforts, which include additional flexibility within the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Federal Crop Insurance Program.
Vilsack also reduced the interest rate for emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, while lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent.
The Ohio order also instructs the Ohio Department of Agriculture to “educate farmers on the adverse impacts of drought conditions and how best to mitigate them, as well as to conduct a series of regional drought education meetings to discuss forage management, water availability, heat stress on livestock and mitigation strategies.”
These meetings, Daniels said, would provide more opportunity for the state’s ag-related agencies and partners to be on the same page and to share resources.
The department also is planning to post hay sale information on its website, for livestock farmers who are in need.
The order also allows the Ohio Department of Transportation to grant permits for farmers cut hay for livestock they own from highway rights-of-way, if their land is adjacent and it can be done safely.
Daniels said he was unsure how much additional hay this may generate, but noted “anything’s a help.”
“I think that most people around would think that anything they might be able to glean off of there would be great,” Daniels said.
Kasich toured the fair today and helped deliver opening comments. He said taking steps to help farmers during the drought “is essential to their survival.
“We need to be taking the right steps so they don’t suffer devastating losses or aren’t forced to abandon their fields or herds,” he said in a statement to media. “It’s in all Ohioans’ best interests for our hard-hit farmers to be able to come back next year and these measures can help make that happen.”
(Reporter Chris Kick can be reached at 330-403-9477, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)