While the inclusion of changes to the Current Agricultural Use Value formula in the new state budget is cause for celebration in agriculture, there were a number of other ag-related components in the budget. Some were less favorable.
Gov. John Kasich signed the budget in late June. It was a tight budget year and Ohio’s agricultural interests did suffer some cuts, including funding for the Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. CFAES was hoping for an originally proposed appropriation of $24,061,355 in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to help fund expanding responsibilities for water quality and rising costs for 4-H, said Adam Ward, CFAES director of government affairs.
“The Senate Finance Committee version of the bill removed mandates inserted by the House version. When doing so, the Senate also cut the appropriation by $134,244 in Fiscal Year 2018 and $141,136 in Fiscal Year 2019 and the additional $7,000 in each fiscal year for expenses related to the [4-H] clubs. The result is a cut to Extension and 4-H,” said Adam Ward, CFAES director of government affairs. “Looking back, Extension funding continues to take a little bit of a hit. We are actively advocating to do more in the way of 4-H and nutrient stewardship outreach through our agricultural and natural resource folks and serve the community in many ways.”
As the roles and responsibilities of Extension continue to expand and evolve, more has been done with less.
“Extension is being asked to do more on the water quality front. Over the last few years we have partnered with other organizations to help sign up farmers to be educated in fertilizer and nutrient management and we’ve been working with the state to help farmers be compliant with the law,” Ward said. “There are required background checks for 4-H volunteers and that has been something that the university and Extension has covered over the years. Extension is also involved in this opioid crises as we look at the mission to deliver the resources of the university to all 88 counties of the state.”
While the role of Extension has continued to expand, Ward points out that funding levels have not kept pace. In 2001, for example, the Ohio State University CFAES funding was at $27,431,440 and for 2017 the funding level was $24,309,491. The 2018 funding level is $23,968,942 and it is $23,962,050 for 2019.
Jenna Beadle, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau, anticipated some of the cuts.
“We knew it was going to be a lean year. There were a lot of projected shortfalls that ended up being a reality and a lot of areas ended up taking cuts. OSU Extension was one of those cuts. We will continue to work with OSU Extension because they are trying to provide the same quality of programs with less funding,” Beadle said. “We were most concerned with the Soil and Water Conservation District cut that took place. They lost about 23% in the governor’s introduced budget. We will be sitting down with Soil and Water to talk about how we can continue partnering with them because they are the boots on the ground when it comes to water quality efforts.”
Beadle, though, also points to numerous positives for Ohio agriculture in the budget.
“The budget did a lot for the opioid crisis. That has a huge impact on everyone across the state. The budget sets up a medication assisted treatment drug court program in many counties for people who are dependent on opioids, or alcohol or both,” she said. “There is around $176 million in the budget for addiction treatment. We were happy the state took an active role in addressing this crisis because it impacts all of Ohio.”
There were several positive education components to the budget as well.
“We had some victories in agriculture education. There was an amendment we were able to secure in the budget that would protect the current relationship between the Ohio FFA Association and the Ohio Department of Education. The FFA currently operates within the Department of Education and we want to ensure that continues. We supported an amendment to outline that relationship in statute and that was successfully included in the budget,” Beadle said. “There was also a provision introduced in the governor’s budget that we were very supportive of. It allows a school district to integrate content from one state approved course to another and it specifically included career tech courses. Students can receive dual credit for those subjects covered in the integrated class. That was a big victory.
“There has also been a long-standing requirement that joint vocational school districts have to use 75% of their career tech funding for programs and up to 25% on staff and personnel, which OFBF has supported. The requirement was removed at one point in the budget process, but we were successful in having it reinstated.”
OFBF policy supported an exemption for apple syrup and apple butter producers from food processing and retail standards if they directly harvest at least 75% of their apples used to produce those products that was included in the budget. OFBF also addressed budget language from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We worked collaboratively with American Farm Bureau staff and the Ohio EPA and successfully changed language in the governor’s budget. The changes we made were to prevent U.S. EPA from obtaining control over the state Total Maximum Daily Load implementation plan,” Beadle said. “Those changes were included in the budget.”
In addition, the Ohio Soybean Association successfully created an Ohio soybean checkoff program that was included in the budget. This provision only goes into effect if the national checkoff program that is currently in place would cease to function.
Overall, while far from perfect, Beadle said the Ohio Farm Bureau was generally pleased with the 2018-2019 State Budget.
“The combination of CAUV reform and some of these victories made it a pretty favorable budget for us,” Beadle said.