These fairs are more than just a place to gather with family and friends, they are a great way for us to show our support for Ohio’s farming community and ensure that Ohio’s agriculture tradition remains strong for generations to come. Local 4-H clubs and similar organizations provide our younger generations with the opportunity to learn essential skills and gain important experience that will serve them well in the future, regardless of their career path. Their exhibits and livestock shows have been and continue to be a staple of our county fairs, and this year will be no different.
Here in our area, the Warren County Fair recently wrapped up its run, while the Hamilton County Fair will take place from August 10-14. In addition, the Ohio State Fair runs July 28 through August 8, and will feature area 4-H members and other individuals who are representing our community in the various shows and competitions. I hope each of you has an opportunity to attend one of the fairs held across our state. My family and I enjoy visiting the county fairs, so please feel free to stop me and say hello if you get the chance.
Besides helping to feed our state and nation, agriculture is our state’s top industry – pumping tens of billions of dollars each year into our economy and providing jobs for many Ohioans. Some of our major crops include corn and soybeans, but our state is also among the nation’s leaders in the production of eggs, maple syrup and dairy products such as Swiss cheese and ice cream.
Recognizing the importance of agriculture to the economy, members of the Senate have worked during this General Assembly to pass legislation that will help support the continued growth of Ohio’s agriculture industry. Earlier this year, we approved Senate Bill 250, which increases the amount of money the State Treasurer is permitted to invest in the Ag-Link deposit program from $125 million to $200 million.
The Ag-Link program helps provide Ohio farmers with low-interest loans they can use to purchase seed, fuel and other items needed to continue their operations. Eligible farms can apply for a loan, and if accepted, the Treasurer deposits money in a bank and the interest that the state would have earned on the deposit is instead used to lower the interest rate on the loan.
SB 250 also increases the cap on individual loans from $100,000 to $150,000. The program has helped more than 280,000 farmers receive reduced-rate financing on nearly $2 billion in loans since its inception in 1985. The bill is currently under discussion in the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.
In addition, lawmakers will also be working to implement portions of an agreement that was recently reached by the Governor, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) regarding animal care. As you may recall, the agreement calls for the phasing-out of certain types of animal crates, the adoption of mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals and a ban on owning or selling dangerous exotic animals. In exchange, HSUS has agreed to not pursue a constitutional amendment this fall that contained similar provisions.
The agreement also calls for the passage of bills that deal with puppy mills – Senate Bill 95 – and increase the penalties for cock fighting – House Bill 108. Legislators continue to work on these bills, however, it is important to note that the General Assembly was not consulted on the agreement or given any specifics on what, if any, changes the groups would like to see made to either bill. I will be sure to keep you updated on our progress in this area.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at SD07@senate.state.oh.us or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.