State, federal agriculture officials visit Marietta

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Ohio Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Tim Derickson speaks in the Armory in Marietta Monday.

Students, farmers, agriculture educators, representatives from southeast Ohio county soil and water conservation districts and all three Washington County commissioners welcomed both the state assistant agriculture department director and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Marietta Monday.

“This is part of our Director (Dorothy) Pelanda’s listening tour,” explained Assistant Director Tim Derickson. “That’s why I’m here, to listen.”

Derickson explained that he was present in place of Pelanda Monday after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called a mandatory meeting between department leaderships to discuss water quality Monday.

But before taking questions and feedback from those in the filled community room of the Armory Monday, Derickson explained the range of oversight granted to the state department, which ranges from from animal lab testing to consumer protections to amusement ride safety and water quality.

“The No. 1 issue and priority in this administration is with water quality,” he noted, highlighting voluntary programming currently in place with funding and oversight in northern Ohio, and the partnership coming with H2Ohio under DeWine as a combined effort between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and ODA.

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times The Armory community room in Marietta is packed Monday with county, city and township officials from Washington, Monroe and Noble counties, and local agriculture high school students for a meeting with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Water quality is the hot topic right now, and we as farmers can accept our part in the problem (with nutrient runoff, algae blooms and sulfates in water tables), but we can’t be the only one to blame or to be providing the oversight and solutions,” he explained further after the presentation.

He encouraged those present to research voluntary programming for their agriculture operations offered by the state.

“There are dollars allocated for these programs or that are coming in the next budget, take advantage of them,” he said. “My worry is if not enough people participate voluntarily and see the benefits, then they could become mandated.”

Programming he highlighted included the small grains program to encourage farmers to keep crops consuming phosphorus in their soils in off seasons, nutrient management programs, equipment buy-downs and farm-to-school funding.

OSU Extension Educator Marcus McCartney said he was excited to hear about the department’s priority for more funding to increase agriculture education in grade schools.

“We’ve been building a program with those early grade levels and putting together grants but thus far haven’t been able to fund every elementary school every year–that’s 13 schools in the county,” he explained. “This could help us make that a stronger and more consistent program to get the kids learning not only where their fruits and vegetables come from but get them excited to eat them and to go to local farm markets.”

Student chapters of FFA from Fort Frye, Frontier, and Warren local schools were also present for the meeting and heard about career opportunities within agriculture outside of raising livestock and crops.

“We were invited by (the) soil and water (conservation district) to come, and since we look at the national topics around agriculture and state topics and talk about those we thought we’d come and pay our respects,” said Fort Frye FFA President Collin Bauerbach, 16, of Lowell.

District Conservationist Dave Bauerbach with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service also spoke Monday and recognized the Schramm Dairy Farm with a regional award for 18 years of service for inviting local school children each fall to the farm to learn about dairy production.

“Last year alone they put aside a week of production and gathered 113 volunteers who logged 904 volunteer hours to put on those two educational days,” said Bauerbach. “They’ve set the bar higher for not only Ohio but 14 states in the region in community service and education.”

Bauerbach presented the family with the Northeast Regional Group Volunteer Award.

At a glance:

• Ohio Department of Agriculture leadership is on a listening tour throughout the state to gather feedback and ideas for future programming from those who interact with the department’s 15 divisions.

• Those divisions include:

• Meat inspection.

• Amusement ride safety and fairs.

• Weights and measures.

• Markets.

• Food safety.

• Soil and water conservation.

• Livestock environmental permitting.

• Plant health.

• Dairy.

• Animal health.

• Administration.

• Legal.

• Communications.

• What’s next: Be on the lookout for joint informational releases from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine’s H2Ohio proposal to attend to water quality across the state.

Source: Ohio Department of Agriculture.

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