• General

    Working Through Challenging Times and Building Resiliency

    This season’s weather has brought not only tremendous amounts of rain, but also exacerbated the problems many farmers already face. In these challenging times, it’s important that we stay in touch, share resources, brainstorm strategies, and empathize with each other’s experiences. 

    In late June, OEFFA hosted a “Rainy Day Exchange” conversation offering farmers space to discuss the challenges they are facing, ask questions, and share ideas.  Nearly 60 producers, agricultural service providers, and researchers joined the call by phone and computer to share their experiences and offer feedback, resources, and solidarity.  The discussion and feedback focused on several topics that warranted attention, including stress management; alternative production options; pest, disease, and weed management; next steps for the season; crop insurance options, and building long-term resiliency into our farming systems.

    Flooded field in Coshocton, Ohio

    In July, we hosted “Salvaging the Season on Your Organic Grain Farm,” a follow up online gathering designed specifically for organic and transitional grain growers.  Ohio State University Extension’s (OSUE) Alan Sundermeier presented mid- and late- season cropping and cover crop options, weed management strategies, and dry down considerations to a small group of grain grower leaders.  Alan stressed that farmers can harvest and sell a forage crop grown on Prevent Plant acreage and still collect their insurance payment as long as they harvest after September 1.

    Bryan Lee and David Manthei of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) shared a program related to disaster relief funding available for cover cropping on Prevent Plant acres and the Conservation Stewardship Program. 

    Jami Dellifield of OSUE led us in a “Staycation” exercise and talked about stress management.

    Dave Shively and the OEFFA Grain Grower Chapter leaders on the call heartily invited the group to attend the August 10 farm tour and field day at Bartholomew Farms in Ottawa Lake, Michigan on the Ohio/Michigan border.

    In August, OEFFA will host another lunchtime call focused on “Managing Farm Stress,” with co-presenters Patty Roth from Michigan State University Extension and Sarah Noggle of OSUE. Patty and Sarah will discuss the current farm economic climate, highlight the physical and mental impacts of stress, and train participants to recognize signs of stress, prevent self-harm in the agricultural community, and access resources for themselves or their loved ones. Mental health is an uncomfortable subject for many, but we all need a lift from time to time. This call will provide a facilitated space for farmers to support each other while learning practical tools for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and community. ALL are welcome. Please join us and feel your best so you can farm your best.

    OEFFA’s upcoming conference in February will offer training for both producers and agricultural professionals in farm stress management, as well as resiliency training for producers. 

    Stay tuned to OEFFA for information on future conversations. If you have thoughts on helpful topics or would like to discuss your challenges, or would like to request education and resources, please contact Julia Barton at (614) 359-3180 or julia@oeffa.org.

  • General

    An End to Gerrymandering: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

    “Undemocratic” Congressional District Map

    A U.S. District Court in Cincinnati recently released a unanimous ruling that Ohio Congressional district boundaries were manipulated for partisan gain by Republican mapmakers and violate the rights of the public to democratic elections. They also went a step further and said the map needed to change before any future elections.

    But, not so fast! Ohio Attorney General David Yost asked the court for a stay, which would postpone the drawing of new maps for an undetermined period of time. While the district judges denied the request for a stay, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to put a hold on any potential changes to the district maps in Ohio and in Michigan, which also has a pending case before the court.

    To get a better understanding of how gerrymandering district boundaries works against the democratic process, view this tutorial from the Washington Post.

    In Ohio, Republicans regularly won 12 of the state’s 16 congressional seats, even when the voters were evenly divided between the parties. A view of Ohio’s three C’s–Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati–illustrates how urban, and frequently Democratic, voters are split into small districts or combined with larger and more rural areas.

    Rich Exner, a data analysis editor for Cleveland.com posted this “un-gerrymandered” map in March. Here are some of the highlights he noted with this analysis of a more representative map:

    • Metro and rural areas with similar characteristics are generally kept together.
    • Up to six districts could be expected to produce competitive races.
    • The rest of the districts are largely Republican (five) or Democrat (four)–not because of ill-conceived political design, but because people of like thoughts tend to live near each other.
    • Seventy-eight of the 88 Ohio counties are kept whole.
    • Just 10 counties are divided into two districts; none are split three or even four ways, as currently is the case for both Cuyahoga and Summit counties.
    • No cities are split, other than a few cases where they cross county lines or, in the case of Columbus, where the city is larger than a single district.

    See the district-by-district analysis from Cleveland.com here, and while Exner also illustrates how things could get worse, we will have to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court reconvenes and hears the cases involving Ohio and Michigan to see if they will take an unprecedented step in ordering states to ensure their Congressional districts allow for truly democratic elections. We can only hope…

  • General

    Ohio Legislator Leads on Healthy Food for Kids

    Senator Sherrod Brown joined with Senator Susan Collins to introduce the Kids Eat Local Act

    The Kids Eat Local Act (SB 1817) was introduced by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME). If passed, the new law will make it easier for schools to utilize locally grown food in the National School Lunch program.

    Current law does not allow schools to specify “local” as a product specification in school food procurement requests and while they can currently use a “geographic preference” option, most schools have found that process confusing and burdensome. Simplifying local food procurement will improve the ability of schools to source produce from Ohio farmers.

    The interest in Farm to School (F2S) has increased in Ohio. Whether in large urban districts or smaller schools throughout the state, programs are springing up to provide healthy, local food options to Ohio children, to teach through school gardens, and much more. See some examples of Ohio F2S success stories here.

    “Ohio farmers grow some of the best produce in the country,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation will increase locally grown foods in our school lunchrooms while strengthening our farms and rural communities.”

    By including the Kids Eat Local Act in the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, schools will have a new, easier-to-use local product specification option. This addition would create important new opportunities for local farmers to sell into school districts, bringing a win-win for students and farmers. This legislation would provide schools flexibility in determining the definition of “local” that best suits their needs.

  • General,  State Policy

    New Report Details Challenges and Opportunities for Ohio Agriculture

    Ohio Agriculture: The Changing Contours of Farming

    Every five years the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service (USDA NASS) completes a comprehensive survey of agriculture across the country. The 2017 survey results show how Ohio could benefit from increased and targeted investments.

    OEFFA’s new report, “Ohio Agriculture: The Changing Contours of Farming,” helps put Ohio in focus by providing a national overview and state-level analysis of farm demographics, farmland, farm size, farmland tenure, local and regional marketing, and organic agriculture. It includes recommendations for Ohio policy makers, community and economic development professionals, and investors.

    Notable statistics include:

    • Nationally, the number of women operators was up almost 27 percent.
    • Ohio is 6th in the nation in the number of beginning farmers.
    • The amount of Ohio farmland increased for the first time in decades.
    • The average age of farmers continues to increase.
    • Consolidation also continues, further eroding the agriculture of the middle.
    • Government payments received by Ohio farmers increased by 86 percent.
    • The amount of leased land decreased by almost 165,000 acres.

    Of critical note is that the value of food sold directly to the public went from $46 million in 2012 to almost $80 million in 2017. Given this growth, the State of Ohio would see a significant return on investment if it committed resources to local and regional food processing infrastructure.

    The Council of Development Finance Agencies has been working for the past 2-3 years on defining food systems as an asset class ripe for investment and how development finance agencies can become more engaged in developing localized food systems through traditional finance approaches such as bonds, tax increment finance, tax credits, and revolving loan funds.

    Also, as Ohio continues to face persistent algal blooms and invest in solutions and incentives, including Governor DeWine’s proposed H2Ohio program, the report sheds light on the vast potential of organic agriculture to improve Ohio’s water quality.

    The interest in organic agriculture continues to grow as Ohio is now 6th in the nation in the number of organic farms and 2nd in the amount of acreage being converted from conventional to organic production systems. Programs that would provide financial assistance and support to farmers that are transitioning to voluntary, market-based organic production systems would go a long way to addressing water quality in the state, while capturing the unmet demand for certified organic food and farm products.

    Read the full report here and contact our policy program for more information.