Fired Ohio ag director speaks about what happened

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Daniels testifying
Dave Daniels, testifying in support of Ohio Gov. Kasich's executive order during a recent meeting at ODA.

(Updates made Oct. 23, to include additional staff who were let go).

COLUMBUS — Former Ohio Director of Agriculture David Daniels, who was terminated Oct. 19, said he has no regrets over how he served and that the John Kasich administration did not give him an answer for why he was dismissed.

Daniels, who served from 2012 until Friday, said he was called to a meeting at Gov. Kasich’s office, where it was explained to Daniels that cabinet members’ service is at the pleasure of the governor, and that his service was no longer needed.

Assistant Director Tim Derickson has been appointed to serve in director’s place.

“I was called into a meeting in the governor’s office, where I was told today would be my last day,” Daniels said.

No answer

He asked why, but said he was not given an answer. There were two more months remaining in his term, under the term-limited Kasich administration.

No one from the Kasich administration press office has returned Farm and Dairy’s calls for comment, including Oct. 22, when Kasich was a featured speaker at the National Conference of the First Amendment, in western Pa.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Agriculture confirmed that two other staff members turned in their resignations the same day as Daniels, Deputy Director Janelle Mead, and Chief Legal Counsel Dustin Calhoun. Both said they were asked to resign, and that they enjoyed their time working for ODA.

“The opportunity to work at ODA was a dream come true, and I think we did so many good things in the time that I was there,” said Mead, who grew up on a Fayette County farm.

State Veterinarian Tony Forshey will serve as assistant director of ODA, and Fred Shimp, a state natural resources employee, will move to ODA to provide advisory support.

Calhoun said ODA was a state agency where people liked their jobs, and often made careers out of them. He joined the legal staff in 2016.

He said one of the things he especially liked was the ag department’s focus on compliance, before enforcement.

“They’re a regulatory agency, but the goal is always compliance before enforcement,” he said.

A Cleveland Plain Dealer article suggested the firing stemmed from differences Daniels and Kasich had regarding a recent executive order the governor issued, seeking to declare eight northwestern watersheds in distress, and requiring nutrient management plans on those same farms.

The order was not popular among most farm and conservation leaders, and is still being reviewed by the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission — which must cast their approval if the order is to move forward.

During testimony before the commission, Daniels encouraged them to act on the governor’s science and approve the executive order.

Multiple concerns

But he told Farm and Dairy that he was also concerned the governor’s order had too many shortcomings, and that he was trying to communicate those concerns to Kasich’s administration.

Daniels said he was concerned there would not be enough technical expertise, and that the cost of a mandatory plan for 2 million acres and 7,000 farmers could be too onerous.

“I made my concerns known to the administration and worked to fulfill the direction that the governor wanted to go,” Daniels said.

Related: Kasich replaces commission members opposed to his executive order.

The seven-member commission has been grappling with the order since it was given to them, over issues such as affordability, staff resources and whether the plan, if fully implemented, would obtain the desired reduction in farm nutrient runoff.

Committee members have suggested that perhaps parts of the order could be implemented, or that smaller watersheds could be targeted, to see what works first. They’ve also suggested that more time is needed, because the research into new farming practices and conservation measures is still young and ongoing.

Public service

Aside from Gov. Kasich’s executive order, which has dominated headlines from the ag department in recent weeks, Daniels said he is pleased with his service, which included advancing Ohio’s interstate meat marketing program, and improving and setting livestock care standards for Ohio.

The former director was also an advocate for Ohio 4-H and FFA programs, and served on the Ohio State Fair committee, where he represented the ag department during the Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions.

Daniels said he told his staff farewell yesterday, and he’s proud of the department’s accomplishments, and is also confident in Tim Derickson’s interim leadership.

“I have no regrets,” Daniels said. “It’s been my pleasure to serve.”

 

Below is the release from Gov. John Kasich’s office, announcing the interim ag director:

COLUMBUS — Tim Derickson was sworn in today as interim director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Derickson, who currently serves as assistant director, was named by Ohio Governor John R. Kasich to replace Dave Daniels.

“As a farmer, businessperson, member of the Ohio House of Representative and as part of our Administration, Tim has always demonstrated the integrity, loyalty and command of the issues that are the hallmark of a natural leader,” said Kasich. “I’m grateful for his willingness to step up, get us across the finish line and hand-off the Department the right way to the next Administration.”

Derickson served seven years in the Ohio House of Representatives where he chaired numerous committees, including serving as vice chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. He and his family operated several successful small businesses in southwest Ohio and he is a graduate of Miami University. He and his wife, Kelly, have two children and one grandchild.

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