DeWine to OFBF: H2Ohio ‘protects’ Lake Erie, farmers

DeWine Farm Bureau
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaking at the the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting, Dec. 4, in Columbus. (Ohio Farm Bureau photo)

COLUMBUS — Ohio’s plan to address water quality issues is meant to “protect” both Lake Erie and the state’s farmers, Gov. Mike DeWine told Ohio Farm Bureau Federation members at the annual meeting, Dec. 4, in Columbus.

“We know that in Ohio, agriculture is still the No. 1 industry,” he said as the meeting kicked off. While Ohio also has a large urban population, “we’re still a huge, huge agriculture state and we’re very proud of that.”

The plan, H2Ohio, was introduced this year. The goals are: reducing phosphorus, creating wetlands, addressing failing septic systems, and preventing lead contamination. Ohio set aside $172 million over a two-year period, DeWine said. “We have men and women who farm, who feed us, who take care of us, and who are so very, very valuable to the communities,” he said. “We had to come up with a balance.”

This year has been historically difficult for farmers. DeWine also acknowledged some management changes could be costly. The plan’s goal is to help farmers move to better practices without saddling them with too many costs, he said. Another goal of his administration, he said, is to focus on farmland preservation.


The board re-elected Frank Burkett III, of Massillon, as president of Ohio Farm Bureau. He spent two years as the group’s first vice president and previously served as treasurer. He has been on the state board since 2007 as a trustee representing members from Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties.

The farm bureau recognized the following for distinguished service.

Tom Price

Price, of Delaware County, earned the 2019 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. He is a sixth-generation farmer with a hog, cattle and compost business.

He volunteers in many capacities statewide, including as a member of the Ohio Expositions Commission and the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. He also has served on the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce, Delaware Community Foundation, Ohio Pork Industry Strategic Planning Committee, Ohio Beef Council, Ohio State University Extension Advisory Committee and Delaware County Farmland Preservation Task Force. He is a member of the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame and the Delaware County Agricultural Hall of Fame.

He and his family have received numerous accolades, including the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Award, Ohio Cattlemen’s Environmental Stewardship Award and Ohio Pork Producers’ Service Award.

Joe Cornely

Cornely received the 2019 Agricultural Communicator Award. In 1998, Cornely joined Ohio Farm Bureau as director of media relations and is retiring at the end of the year as senior director of corporate communications. It is the second time he has been honored with the award. He received his first for his work as a long-time farm broadcaster at WRFD where he produced the “As We See It” weekly radio program.

In 1996, Cornely was voted National Farm Broadcaster of the Year. He was very active in the National Association of Farm Broadcasting and was president in 1995. He has received national communications and service awards, including from the Soil and Water Conservation Society, American Soybean Association, National Association of Conservation Districts and National Corn Growers Association.

He also has received numerous awards from Ohio farm organizations, including the Ohio Corn Growers, Ohio Soybean Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Pork Council, Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Ohio Agri-Women and Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.

Steve Rasmussen

Rasmussen, a longtime supporter of the farm bureau and the agricultural community, received the Ezra C. Anstaett Heritage Award. He recently retired as chief executive officer of Nationwide Insurance after being elected to the position in 2009. He also served on Nationwide’s board of trustees. Previously, he was president and chief operating officer of Nationwide’s property and casualty insurance operations, Allied Insurance and CalFarm Insurance, an affiliated company with Nationwide.

Outstanding Young Farmer

Matt Vodraska, of Wayne County, was named 2019 Outstanding Young Farmer. He and his family run Rittman Orchards and Bent Ladder Cider and Wine. The orchard has been in operation since the 1920s. The Vodraskas took it over in 2005, and Matt Vodraska came back full-time in 2006. The family has expanded the orchard and added berries and added a vineyard. In 2015, Matt Vodraska established Bent Ladder, one of the first farm wineries and estate cider operations in Ohio. Vodraska took part in the inaugural AgriPower class.

Agricultural excellence

Kyle and Ashton Walls, of Knox County, earned the 2019 Excellence in Agriculture Award. The Walls, first-generation farmers, raise Mexican Corriente cattle, horses and layer hens. The cattle are used in rodeo events and for beef finishing. Kyle is an agricultural and commercial lender with the Park National Bank. Ashton works for CNH Industrial, as an inventory analyst.

Board of trustees

Farm bureau members re-elected the following to three-year terms on the board of trustees: Mike Bensman, of Shelby County; Nathan Brown, of Highland County; Paul Harrison, of Seneca County; Jerry Lahmers, of Tuscawaras County; John Mossbarger, of Fayette County; James W. (Bill) Patterson, of Geauga County; Cy Prettyman, of Marion County; Kyle Smith, of Clark County; Michael Videkovich, of Pickaway County; and Chris Weaver, of Williams County. Craig Pohlman, of Van Wert County, was elected to his first three-year term.

Victoria Popp

Popp, of Clermont County, won the 2019 discussion meet. The competition tests participants’ subject knowledge, problem-solving abilities and personal and small group communications skills.


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Farm and Dairy Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Miller was tapped to lead the newsroom in 2019. A veteran journalist, dog wrangler and traveler, she lives on a 220-acre, 325-ewe commercial sheep farm in Lisbon, Ohio, which she runs in partnership with her mother. She can be reached at 330-817-6179 or



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