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.