By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed Senate Bill 375 on Jan. 11. The bill aimed to override Ohio’s statewide health order that limits Ohio’s county and independent fairs. It also provided the framework for the working group responsible for setting the 2021 fair season’s safe operating guidelines. The proposed working group included representatives from the legislature, health department, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Fair Managers Association, Greater Ohio Showmen’s Association, Ohio’s livestock organizations, Ohio Agricultural Educators Association, Ohio 4-H and the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association.
In his veto message, DeWine said it was a difficult decision to limit county fairs in the state last July to limit the spread of COVID-19. Legislative advocates of the bill made the case that fairs suffered financial loss after the statewide restriction reduced fairs’ income.
DeWine’s statement also pointed out the $4.7 million in funding provided to fairs by the state, as well as the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s waiver of the $50,000 local match requirement of the agricultural society facility grant.
“We are disappointed with Governor DeWine’s veto of SB 375, which would have created a state working group to consider safe and hygienic operations for fairs during the coming season. The bill, in voiding the July 2020 health order that allowed only junior fair programming, would have given the early green light to move ahead in planning full fairs. At this point, work continues as we strive to ensure that county and independent fairs will indeed have the opportunity to move forward all aspects of their fair,” the Ohio Fair Managers Association wrote in a statement on their Facebook page.
As for the upcoming fair season, the veto does not mean fairs will necessarily remain junior fair only. As was the case in 2020, the DeWine administration will consult with local and state health officials and county fair boards to make decisions about the fair season. Gov. DeWine did approve HB 665 that increases the amount a county fair or independent agricultural society receives for operation expenses from a county, removes the cap on the amounts that a county may transfer to an agricultural society for junior club expenses associated with operating the fairgrounds, and increases the total amount of debt an agricultural society may incur.