Daniels speaks on importance of agriculture

By Heather Meade hmeade@civitasmedia.com

March 20, 2014

GREENVILLE – The Darke County Chamber of Commerce held their 2014 Chamber Ag Day on Thursday, with Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Director David T. Daniels providing an update on Ohio’s agricultural scene.

Matt Aultman, chair of the Darke County Chamber of Commerce ag committee, introduced Director Daniels, saying he brings “the perspective of a family farmer, a small businessman, and a local government official to the [Ohio Department of Agriculture.]”

Daniels touched on the importance of agriculture in everyday life, more than just the food on the dinner table, but the clothes families wear, and the wood that builds houses, Daniels said.

“So many times, I think a lot of our friends and neighbors don’t always get that importance. It’s important that Chambers of Commerce…use this opportunity to bring everybod­y together,” Daniels said of the Darke County Chamber of Commerce’s continued efforts.

Daniels gave examples of Ohio’s agricultural success stories, such as Bob Evans, which started out as a 12-stool restaurant, which has “grown itself into a great Ohio company worth $1.7 billion.” He talked about a meat processing plant in Wayne County that has been in business since 1939, and of course the growing grape and wine industry in Ohio, with one such winery stemming from a young boy’s 4-H experience, Daniels said.

“Those are the kind of success stories that ag in Ohio, over the years, has grown,” Daniels stated. “…Most people don’t realize that Ohio’s ag story starts out on a small farm years ago and continues to grow. Those family farms are still in their family, they’ve just gotten big and are employing people.”

According to Director Daniels, Ohio is ranked 13th nationally in total crops and livestock being raised, with just over $10 billion in sales associated with the agriculture industry, he said. Ohio is losing farms a slower rate, on average, than the rest of America, Daniels reported, losing just under .5 percent of Ohio farms last year, opposed to the national average of 4 percent, with 75,462 farms in Ohio, he said, putting the state at number seven in the nation for total number of farms.

“Those are just a few of the statistics that we highlight that show things are going good; that ag is steady and firm here, that people aren’t running away from production agriculture, but are in fact embracing it and we’re finding more and more people working the land and finding the value of that,” Daniels noted.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has recently been given more regulatory authority, adding dangerous wild animals and large scale breeders to their list of things to take care of, along with plant and animal health and food safety, Daniels said.

There are new opportunities arising in Ohio to be a part of the agriculture industry, Daniels commented, sharing that Daisy will open a production plant in Wooster, Ohio, among other things. The department will also begin a registry for sensitive crops, Daniels said, to make production in Ohio a little easier.

Daniels also spoke about Ohio’s Century Farm program, stating that there are approximately 20 Century Farms, or farms that have been owned and operated under the same family name for at least 100 years, a feat of longevity that most businesses never experience, Daniels said. Daniels encouraged Ohio farmers who believe they may qualify as a Century Farm to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture and learn more.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has also started a new tradition, one they hope will carry on, with their Growing Ohio magazine, that highlights Ohio producers and gives an overview of Ohio agriculture.

Daniels reminded the agriculture community that they should also focus on educating consumers.

“People today are looking to make that connection. I think one of our biggest challenges is to make sure that people know that the work that’s being done on our farms, the production that’s taking place is done in a healthy and humane manner,” Daniels stated. “Everyone has to take part in making sure that message gets out. Everybody needs to know that we are the luckiest nation in the world. We have choices. When you walk into a grocery store in Ohio, look at the choice and opportunity that we have. People don’t realize what we’ve got here. We’re lucky, we’ve got choices.”

The Darke County Chamber of Commerce has hosted an agriculture day in the county for over 60 years.