There is considerable interest in the polymer industry in Ohio - and agriculture can be a part of that industry, according to State Senator Capri Cafaro, speaking at a Food and Agriculture Committee breakfast earlier in January. Several agricultural products, such as soybeans, corn and biomass, have a potential to be used in making polymers. Expanding the market for these crops can help the agricultural economy in the area.
The polymer industry is an important one in Ohio, and one that agriculture needs to consider as a potential market for their products.
Paul Wilde, president of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, expressed an interest in a small group of farmers and others from Trumbull and Ashtabula counties meeting with Senator Cafaro to explore agriculture's potential in the polymer industry.
Sen. Cafaro said she did not believe there will be any changes made in the Current Agricultural Use Value Program that provides a tax break for active farmers. She indicated some groups in the state want to change the program, looking for more ways to get tax dollars. CAUV is an important program for preserving family farms by providing a tax reduction for those actively farming. Discontinuing or changing the program would mean the loss of family farms and increased food prices.
Concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs, were briefly mentioned by Cafaro, but she didn't really address this very difficult permitting process. Dairy farmers wanting to expand above 700 cows have to have a CAFO permit, an expensive and time consuming application process, making it difficult for farmers to expand.
She said the National Animal Identification Program, a controversial program that would eventually require all livestock to be identified and registered, is not mandated in Ohio. She didn't think it would become mandatory and implemented in Ohio anytime soon.
There is one school of thought that says we need a tracking system for livestock if we have a major disease outbreak in this country. Others strongly believe we already have a system in place that is adequate and that the proposed NAIS is an invasion of personal privacy.
Sen. Cafaro said the state budget deficit is serious and more cuts in programs will be needed to balance the budget. She also said there are needed changes in Ohio's health care program and this will be one of the priorities for the new state legislature.
Working together in a non-partisan way was stressed by the senator. Good legislation that is important and needed can be passed when legislators work together, she said.
During the question-answer session, in response to questions about over-regulation of agriculture by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she expressed frustration with that agency and their many programs and regulations. She felt there needs to be more oversight and control over EPA and that their regulations and enforcements can strangle agriculture and other businesses.
The Food and Agriculture Committee is a group of farmers and rural people with an interest in agriculture. They meet nine months a year at 8 a.m. on the first Friday at the Gustavas Federated Church in Gustavas. Educational programs of interest are provided. Members of the church serve an excellent all-you-can eat pancake and sausage breakfast.
Reservations are not needed, and all interested rural and agricultural folks are welcome. The next breakfast will be held at 8 a.m. Feb. 6.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and works with agriculture organizations in the county.