Ohio legislators have approved a two-year state budget for the desk of Governor John Kasich.
While the budget had controversial measures, the agricultural aspects of the bill are positive across the board, according to Brandon Kern, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation director of state policy.
“From the beginning of the budget process, we had identified a number of priority issues that we were going to advocate for largely revolving around a couple of different areas — agricultural education and workforce development and a lot of research programs that directly benefit the agricultural community. We are advocating for increased funding for Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster and the Ohio State University Extension program. Both of those programs received pretty significant increases in funding and we are happy to see those programs supported,” Kern said. “We also saw support of programs directly related to water quality issues that are increasingly important to our industry. Programs like the Ohio Sea Grant, Heidelberg’s Water Quality Lab, and the Clean Ohio Fund all received funding that we had been advocating for. In terms of Clean Ohio, the legislature appropriated the final $52 million that is available that had been approved by voters back in 2008. Those dollars help with farmland preservation, green space preservation and brownfield remediation.”
The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) and high school agricultural education also fared well in the budget.
“With ag education, we had to go to work for ATI that was facing a pretty significant cut in funding. We are really happy to report that ATI will be in a much better place than they would have been,” Kern said. “The legislature added a stop-gap in the first year of the biennium that will keep their funding at at least 96% of what they are currently receiving. So they are guaranteeing that they won’t have any more than 4% reduction in their funding. We were able to advocate for some additional dollars for ATI as well.
“We were also able to advocate for career technical education at the high school level that was a big winner. Of course, agriculture and environmental sciences are a part of that. The legislature put in place a weighted formula, which agricultural education is in the top tier, which basically means that they are going to generate the most dollars per student enrolled in those agricultural education programs when compared to any other career tech program. We are really happy about that. That is a recognition that these programs are preparing our young people for the jobs of the future in our industry.”
The budget is now awaiting Governor Kasich’s approval (and line-item veto potential) but, thus far, Kern said it is looking good for Ohio agriculture.
“We see the budget package as a whole as a very positive thing. Certainly in a budget bill, there are some things that are not quite ideal, but in this case, I think as a package, this budget is a very positive thing for agriculture in Ohio,” he said. “The Governor sees the value in these programs. In terms of the priorities we’ve laid out, we feel pretty good about the bill going to the Governor’s desk.”