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Fast Action Needed to Keep Some Ohio Growers in Business

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PHOTO: Ron Meyer holding strawberries. Photo credit: Mary Meyer.
PHOTO: Ron Meyer holding strawberries. Photo credit: Mary Meyer.
 By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH, Contact
August 22, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Without fast action by Congress, programs that help keep small and specialty farmers in Ohio afloat are at risk.

The current farm bill will soon expire, and with it go dollars to fund certain programs that benefit local, sustainable and small- to mid-sized family farms. Among them is the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which provided the training for Linde Collingwood of Solon to launch her small-market garden. She says these programs help her and other growers provide healthy food options for Ohioans.

"There's going to be more demand and more interest as people learn where their food is coming from, so we're going to need more local farmers and beginning farmers to provide these things. If the funding is cut, there's going to be a huge gap."

The Senate passed a farm bill in June, but the House Agriculture Committee passed a different version of the bill in July. Unless the House takes action, the current farm bill from 2008 will expire Sept. 30.

Another program that could lose funding is the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which Ron Meyer of Strawberry Hill Farm near Coshocton says has been a tremendous help to him. He fears losing the program, particularly after he's already lost nearly one-third of his yield this year, because of the heat and drought that have devastated farms across the Midwest.

"We've seen insects - insects that we've never seen before. We've had some disease problems we've never had before - and both of those are due to the weather this year."

While the House passed a disaster assistance bill for farmers earlier this month, the Farm Bill that outlines short-term and long-term farm policies remains stalled. Meyer is a member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which advocates for policies that protect and benefit sustainable agriculture.

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