By Matt Reese
In the early hours of July 1, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the $74 billion state budget for Fiscal Years 2022-2023. The balanced, 3,300-page budget did not require dipping into the State’s rainy-day funds in spite of the challenges of COVID-19.
“This is a strong budget focused on our future. Budgets always reflect priorities. Policy is driven so often through budgets. What you invest in is what you value and this budget reflects what we value,” DeWine said. “To think we have done this while coming out of the worst health crisis in 100 years — we have come out with this strong budget. We made the tough choices early on. We cut spending we froze hiring and we did what we had to do.”
There were a number of highlights for Ohio agriculture.
“From rural broadband and local meat processing capacity, to funding for H2Ohio, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio State, lawmakers and Governor DeWine heard from Ohio Farm Bureau and our members and responded to the issues laid out in our Ohio Agriculture and Rural Communities Action Plan with this new budget,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “We appreciate the legislature and the administration for their recognition of the challenges facing Ohio’s farm and food sector and for the action to provide funding to address the concerns of their rural constituents across the state.”
The budget continues to move forward with water quality efforts with $170 million in funding for the H2Ohio program.
“The budget will not only allow H2Ohio to continue to thrive and flourish, it provides the opportunity to expand the initiative and its positive impacts,” said Kris Swartz, chairman of Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative. “Governor DeWine’s leadership on H2Ohio and the initiative’s commitment to working with farmers will help improve water quality in Ohio’s lakes, streams and rivers. We thank the Governor and the legislature for the investment in this vital initiative. OACI is proud to partner with H2Ohio to address Ohio’s water quality challenges, and we look forward to working together as this program is made available to farmers throughout the Western Lake Erie Basin.”
Broadband funding in the budget reflects a key priority for DeWine’s administration and a top priority for rural Ohio. The budget includes $250 million to invest in broadband through the Ohio Broadband Expansion Program created by House Bill 2 in May of 2021 to help fund the infrastructure to provide faster internet to underserved rural Ohio communities.
In addition, the budget included $10 million funding for the Meat Processing Investment Program designed to expand Ohio’s local meat processing infrastructure.