COLUMBUS — Farmers have an abundance of what Ohio’s next governor, John Kasich, wants to see more of in government: common sense.
Speaking Dec. 3 at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Columbus, Kasich applauded farmers’ work ethic and personal responsibility, and said it will take some of those qualities to get the state back on track.
The blunt Republican pulled no punches about the tough job ahead crafting a lean state budget, reducing taxes and creating jobs at the same time.
“We have to balance the budget and we have to cut the taxes,” he said.
“You’re going to hear a lot of whining, a lot of complaining,” Kasich told the farm audience. “I’m gonna do this job, but I need you to help me.”
“We have clogged up the state of Ohio with too much regulation,” Kasich said, outlining the priorities for his new director of agriculture, former state representative, Jim Zehringer.
Kasich said Zehringer’s role as director is primarily regulatory, but the governor-elect said he wants to hear from farmers about the things that stand in their way of doing business.
“How can we help you make your business more successful? You need to let us know the things that drive you crazy.”
The Kasich theme of streamlining government and reducing regulations came with a warning to the farm community, however, as the new governor addressed environmental problems like those that plagued Grand Lake St. Marys this summer.
We need to find the bad actors, Kasich said, in regards to pollution that triggered an algal bloom that halted all use of the lake this summer.
Farmers have to be responsible stewards as they do business, he said.
“There are a handful of farmers that are recalcitrant, and what I don’t want to have to do is punish everybody for the sins of a few.”
“We gotta go whack their knuckles first.”
Kasich said he doesn’t want to have to take a legislative or regulatory role in the situation, but “clearly, something needs to be done at that lake.”
The Kasich administration is also handed the unofficial agreement brokered by the outgoing Strickland administration between the Humane Society of the United States and Ohio’s major farm and commodity groups regarding recommendations to the newly formed Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Kasich is leaving the board’s direction in the hands of Zehringer, who, as director of agriculture, will serve as the board’s new chairman. But he told reporters after his speech, “If this agreement can provide some stability and some sense of where we’re headed, then [we’ll] will work it out.”
Zehringer said he had yet to meet with the commodity groups on the issue, but was planning to attend the board’s Dec. 7 meeting. He didn’t seem worried about the original deadline of Dec. 31, 2010, imposed by the HSUS in some of the agreement’s key points, saying, “I believe they’re willing to work it out.”
Kasich voiced a concern, however, that management practice restrictions could turn some farm businesses, specifically in the poultry industry, away from Ohio.
“Is that a trade-off that agriculture wants to do?” Kasich asked. “That’s up to agriculture.”
“You want to make sure, at the end of the day, that farmers are served.”
The next governor said he plans to push for more trade opportunities, and wants to create a stronger, pro-business environment in Ohio.
He challenged the farmers to consider what regional farm businesses they work with and encourage more to relocate in the Buckeye State.
“Let’s open up Ohio and get some of those businesses to move to this state,” Kasich said. “Would you kind of sell Ohio a little bit?”
Kasich also challenged the Ohio Farm Bureau to kick up its agricultural education programming.
“It’s imperative that we communicate the importance of agriculture in our schools,” he said. “We need to tell our young people that agriculture is cool.”