The first issue of Ohio’s Country Journal was nearly 30 years ago in September of 1992. It featured Stark County dairy farmer Mark Thomas and his tireless promotion of ethanol through his success on the race track behind the wheel of an ethanol-powered hot rod.
By 1992, Thomas had won three International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) world championships and always promoted his favorite fuel — corn ethanol. From there, Thomas’ racing career and ethanol took off. Since 1992, ethanol has been among the greatest success stories of agriculture in Ohio.
In 30 years there have been plenty of other industry-shaping developments. I have been perusing the OCJ archives in recent weeks as we work our way through year 30 and have been amazed at the massive changes that have shaped Ohio agriculture. Along with the rise of ethanol, here are some others.
Genetically modified crops
There is not much in the last three decades that has had more impact in crop fields than this topic. In 1996, Monsanto introduced genetically modified Roundup Ready soybeans and widespread adoption soon followed. Never before had weed control been so easy and effective. Beyond the benefits for farm productivity, yield and pest management, though, genetically modified crops brought about tremendous backlash from food safety and consumer groups, resulting in unprecedented changes in food labeling. This helped facilitate a massive shift in the consumer food market where end-users wanted closer connections to their food.
In 2010 there were many months of battle preparations, emotional highs, frustration, anger, fund raising, and, ultimately, compromise, after the Humane Society of the United States threatened a ballot measure in Ohio. The resulting “agreement” was one of the pivotal happenings in the animal welfare history of Ohio. The “agreement” built upon the previous formation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. Many in Ohio ag were ready for a fight, though, and there was much frustration at the time about what seemed to many as giving up. Despite the mixed reviews, the agreement set a national precedent and changed the rules of warfare between animal rights extremists and agriculture.
Aside from farm families, the most precious resource in Ohio agriculture is the land. Between 1950 and 2000, Ohio lost more than 6.9 million acres of farmland, representing nearly one‐third of Ohio’s agricultural land. This trend continues today with non-farm land uses gobbling up more acres all the time.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Office of Farmland Preservation assists farmers, landowners and local communities with their farmland preservation efforts in a number of ways, including easement programs which began in 2002. Easements have since preserved more than 540 farms totaling over 85,000 acres in 61 counties. The integrity of the program is currently being tested in a Union County court battle over a preserved property. Stay tuned…
Sometimes we have too much of it. Many places do not have enough. In recent years, protecting Ohio’s incredibly valuable water resources has become one of the top priorities in Ohio. In 2019, citizens of Toledo approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, which opened up the possibility of thousands of lawsuits against any entity that could be doing harm to Lake Erie, including agricultural operations. This was immediately followed up with a lawsuit from Wood County farmer Mark Drewes challenging the constitutionality and legal status of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. Prior to that was the Gov. John Kasich water drama of 2018 with an executive order to take action on water quality in Lake Erie with Ohio’s agriculture in the crosshairs. After staunch agricultural opposition and some political wrangling on both sides of the issue, the debate was tabled until the start of the DeWine Administration. Now we have H2Ohio, which incentivizes water quality improvement efforts at the farm and local level. So far, H2Ohio has proven to be successful, more favorable for agriculture and truly beneficial for water quality.
These are just a few of many industry-changing events in the last 30 years of Ohio agriculture and Ohio’s Country Journal. For our big anniversary we are offering free 3-year subscriptions for new and current subscribers. To subscribe visit: https://ocj.com/renew/. Sign up now and celebrate 30 years with us!