Guest column by David T. Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
As a kid, I used to deliver eggs to my neighbors from our family farm — that was the standard pace of a farming business back then. But when you’re a farmer, the only thing that changes faster than the seasons is the technology you use to advance your operations.
Today, agriculture tells a much different story than it did when I was growing up. Ohio farmers are on the cutting edge of technology. They are doing things faster and more efficiently, using precision equipment and GPS-guided tractors, and the effects are resonating far beyond Ohio’s borders and into a global marketplace.
Across the globe
Ohio farmers and agribusinesses are now sorting and sending thousands of bushels of Identity-Preserved, food-grade soybeans to Japan and Korea. Through this high-tech process, a customer in Asia can trace back the beans in each bag to the plot of land right here in Ohio they were grown on. The process creates jobs, and the Ohio farmers growing these soybeans are often paid a premium above the standard price of the commodity.
Ohio’s quality livestock are also in high demand and are being shipped all over the world. In 2010, Ohio exported 7,034 livestock animals compared to the 25,836 livestock animals Ohio exported in 2011. The volume of livestock going through the state is projected to exceed $3.1 million in economic activity, just in feed costs.
In fact, Ohio represents a key component of all U.S. agricultural exports, which reached a record of $136 billion last year. If you’re not a farmer, you might be thinking, “That’s nice, but what does it mean exactly and why should it matter to me?”
When Ohio farmers and agribusinesses are successful, we all benefit. There are more jobs and income, and money from these transactions filters through the community and helps support the bank, the grocery store, the local car dealer, or any other number of community businesses. The food you buy to feed your family costs less. Simply put, every time another country invests in Ohio agricultural products, it means a better way of life and a secure future for you and your family.
Now more than ever, we need to look toward agriculture. Even when other industries are challenged by changing trends, agriculture continues to be our top industry, adding $107 billion to the economy and providing thousands of jobs to people who live in our state. Did you know Mercer County is number one in the state in agricultural production? It is also number one in the lowest level of unemployment in the state. That is no coincidence.
There are a wide range of agricultural careers available today, and there is a tremendous need for young people to train for these careers to help support the future of agriculture. In the veterinary industry in particular, there is a nationwide shortage of food animal veterinarians and veterinary technicians. These professionals are critical to our national food safety and food security infrastructures, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. There are hundreds of other high-paying, agricultural-related professions needed in Ohio to support the industry and all the good benefits it brings to our state.
Most Ohioans are several generations removed from the farm, but Ohio agriculture continues to touch each one of us every day. From traditional food and milk items to sweeteners, cosmetics, clothing, medication, bio-based fuels, lubricants and plastics, there is not an item in anyone’s day that has not been shaped in some way by this magnificent industry.
March 11th through the 17th is Ohio Agriculture Week. This year, join me in recognizing the importance of Ohio’s food and agriculture industry and thanking those who boost our quality of life by providing us with our necessities.