Gov. Mike DeWine Signs Ohio’s Budget Bill – What is in It for Ag?
In the early hours of the morning on July 1, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio’s Fiscal Year 2022 – 2023 budget bill, also known as Am. Sub. House Bill 110. July 1 marks the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year. While the final bill ran to nearly 2,500 pages, it was slightly shortened when the Governor vetoed 14 items before signing. This is a culmination of legislative and executive branch work that began back in February. You may recall this article I wrote at the time: Ohio’s State Budget Process and It's Impact on Ohio Agriculture (oaba.net).
Overall, I am pleased with the fiscally conservative budget that includes an income tax cut for Ohioans and important investments in our state. I will attempt to highlight some of the most relevant areas to our industry. First, I want to stress that this is really a broad funding bill for state government. There is something in this bill for every Ohioan; funding was included for many areas, including Medicaid and programs to address food insecurity, early childhood education and assistance for the elderly.
More specific to our industry and rural Ohio, I was pleased to see many of the items OABA advocated for were included. Here are the highlights:
ODA – The bill includes $100 million for the Department of Agriculture to continue to enroll and engage more than 1,800 agriculture producers in nutrient management, water management and erosion management. As you know, farmers rely on nutrients to ensure the maximum crop yields, and this program helps farmers with implementing proven practices that minimize nutrient runoff. To date, more than 1.1 million acres across 14 counties, 36 percent of the representative cropland, are part of this program to implement best practices for nutrient management.
ODNR – $50 million goes to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the continuation of wetland creation and restoration, supporting additional strategically placed wetland projects in the Lake Erie and Ohio River basins. The funds will also allow for continued monitoring to assess the impact of wetland restoration projects. To date, ODNR’s H2Ohio initiative has resulted in 57 wetland projects currently underway, 20 nonprofit conservation partners to support 90,000 acres of watershed filtered by wetland projects, increasing recreational opportunities, and identified 90 species threatened or endangered that will benefit from this additional habitat.
Ohio EPA – $20 million will be directed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to continue improving water and wastewater infrastructure for increased public health by replacing additional lead service lines and failed home sewage treatment systems across seven counties to reduce lead exposure. To date, H2Ohio has replaced 185 lead service lines, repaired or replaced 180 failed home sewage treatment systems, improved the quality of drinking water for 4,000 people, and served 670 people with three new wastewater projects.
Water Quality Pilot Program – $4,000,000 was earmarked for a water quality project at Shallow Run in Hardin County. The OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences has been working with stakeholders to obtain a federal grant via the Regional Conservation Partnership Program of the USDA as a match for this watershed project.
Lack of access to high-speed internet and digital resources is a significant barrier for Ohio citizens and communities to connect with one another, access educational opportunities, and capitalize on job openings. This budget will invest $250 million to expand access to broadband for Ohio households that lack the basic connectivity necessary to be part of the modern economy, education system and healthcare system.
This investment provides direct grants to internet service providers to expand their network and build conduits along limited-access interstate rights-of-way that can then be leased out to companies for long-haul and middle-mile infrastructure. This investment also helps companies provide low-cost internet by paying infrastructure costs, leveraging state assets, and matching funds to draw down federal dollars to make broadband more affordable in both urban and rural areas.
Agriculture is an integral part of the Ohio economy, and through this budget, Ohio will work to stabilize and expand this sector of our economy. The Farmland Preservation Program's goal is to permanently preserve farmland through the purchase of agricultural easements from landowners. Similar to an economic development program, the proceeds are used to expand farming operations, reduce debt and implement conservation practices. To aid farmers and landowners to move forward quickly and preserve at least 1,000 additional acres, this budget adds $1.5 million, in addition to the recent capital appropriations.
Meat Processing Investment Program
As we continue to see severe pinch points in our food supply chain related to meat processing, the legislature approved $10,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2022 funding to create a grant program through the Ohio Department of Development to aid meat processors in process improvement and training needs.
Farm Production, Policy, and Financial Management Institute
Successful farmers lead to successful rural communities and businesses across the state. A new line item, 600676 Farm Financial Management Institute, was created and funded to support the Farm Production, Policy, and Financial Management Institute, a new OSU CFAES program. Today’s farmers face increasingly complex issues and the expanded resources through this line item will help ensure their success. The program is funded at $250,000 per fiscal year.
OSU CFAES Line Items
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and OSU Extension both received increased funding from the Governor’s original proposal, while the Ohio Sea Grant program saw restored funding through the legislative process.
CDL Student Aid
This budget includes a $5,000,000 fund dedicated to scholarships and low interest loans for students seeking a commercial driver’s license. My hat is off to our friends at the Ohio Trucking Association and the Ohio Beverage Association for their hard work on this line item.
Throughout this process, OABA worked with our industry partners, including the Ohio Farm Bureau and the agricultural commodity organizations, to leverage our relationships and increase our overall impact to get these important items successfully addressed in the budget. Now that the Governor has signed Am. Sub. House Bill 110 into law, we can all take a moment to appreciate the significant role the budget plays in keeping our great state of Ohio running and commend those who played a role in bringing it to fruition.