What’s in Ohio’s budget for ag, rural life?

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Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse.

The Ohio legislature passed its operating budget for the next two years, House Bill 33, just in time to meet the deadline of June 30.

The final version of the budget, signed July 4 by Gov. Mike DeWine, includes more funding for water quality, the Ohio State Fair and county and independent fairs and rural infrastructure, and several provisions to cut taxes for individuals and businesses.

Water quality

The budget funds the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s part of the H2Ohio Initiative with more than $60 million per fiscal year, up from about $55 million per year in the last budget.

The H2Ohio Initiative is DeWine’s plan for improving water quality in the state. Through that initiative, the Ohio Department of Agriculture helps farmers adopt best management practices for water quality and come up with plans for managing nutrients to prevent excessive runoff and other issues.

The initiative also includes programs through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. About $27.5 million per year will go to the Ohio EPA, to continue projects that improve wastewater and drinking water. The Department of Natural Resources will receive more than $46.5 million to continue wetland restoration and other water quality projects through its H2Ohio program.

Agriculture

The Ohio Expositions Commission will receive $190 million over the next two years for EXPO 2050, the strategic plan for the Ohio Expo Center property, which hosts the state fair and many other events.

County and independent fairs will receive $4.7 million. The budget also includes about $1 million over the next two years for farmland preservation. The Ohio Meat Processing Grant Program will receive $14 million. Ohio State University will receive $10 million for its Multi-Species Animal Learning Center.

The Ohio Farm Bureau noted provisions related to tax changes will have implications for individuals and businesses in agriculture in a July 1 press release. The budget bill includes a provision to cut down the number of individual income tax brackets. It also creates a committee to review and make recommendations to reform the state’s property tax law. This could include reforms to the state’s Current Agricultural Use Value program.

DeWine vetoed a provision in the bill that would have prohibited foreign adversaries from owning farmland in Ohio.

“Restricting ownership of Ohio farmland protects Ohio’s rich agricultural tradition from adverse interests,” DeWine wrote in the veto message. “However, including other non-agricultural real property in this provision could have unintended economic development consequences.”

Other funding

The budget also includes funding for rural infrastructure. It creates and dedicates $500 million to the Connect4Ohio Fund. The Connect4Ohio Fund will fund projects that improve roads, particularly in rural areas.

The Ohio Department of Development will receive more than $180 million for broadband across several different programs.

Another $350 million will go to the Brownfield Remediation Program, which cleans up environmentally contaminated sites so they can be used again.

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