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Ohio lawmakers tour farms to learn about ag
By JANE HOUIN
Ohio Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio — If not for Ohio’s livestock producers, the state’s grain farmers would look somewhere else to sell their products. That was the message Ohio lawmakers and legislative aides heard last week in a tour of two north central Ohio family livestock farms.

Sponsored by the Ohio Livestock Coalition (OLC), the tour was designed to help lawmakers grasp a better understanding and appreciation for the issues facing livestock production in Ohio, according to David White, OLC’s executive director.

“We’re very pleased,” White said. “Almost one-third of Ohio’s General Assembly was represented on the tour, which is more than double last year’s event.”

The tour had a four-fold goal: to educate members of Ohio’s General Assembly and Congressional delegation about modern livestock and poultry production; to answer their questions and address concerns about modern livestock and poultry production; to demonstrate the importance of Ohio’s livestock industry to state- and national-elected officials; and to demonstrate the importance of livestock production to Ohio’s grain farmers.

White told the group that 94 percent of the meal processed from Ohio soybeans is fed to livestock, and 60 percent of Ohio’s corn goes into livestock feed. Ohio’s livestock industry contributes more than $8 billion a year to Ohio’s economy. More than 47,000 people are employed by the livestock industry from on-farm to jobs in processing, with approximately 18,000 of those jobs in the dairy sector alone.

Livestock accounts for one-third of the state’s farm production and one-sixth of its farm income, White said.

In the morning, the group visited DayLay Egg Farm in Logan County. The farm has more than 2 million laying hens that produce about 46,500 dozen eggs a day. In addition to the health of the birds, manure and nutrient management are high priorities, according to general manager Peter Mumm.

The farm’s design incorporates a central composting room for composting of all manure. The compost is currently marketed as organic fertilizer. A recent expansion added more than 1 million laying hens and two state-of-the-art composting facilities. The farm purchases about 3 million bushels of corn from central Ohio grain farmers. Nearly 1.5 million bushels of soybeans are crushed into soybean meal that is fed to the chickens.

DayLay official Mark Meyer said the farm works closely with county and township officials to be good neighbors. The farm has agreed to use only county and state roads instead of township roads that are not designed for heavy truck traffic. The German-owned family farm employs about 130 people from Logan and Union counties.

In the afternoon, the group traveled to Wyandot County to visit the hog and grain operation of Randy and Tom Brown: Maken Bacon Farm. The Browns and their families own, operate and manage a 600-sow, farrow-to-finish hog farm and 1,200 acres of corn and soybeans.

They have invested in various forms of technology that make their farm more environmentally friendly. In 2005, the National Pork Board recognized the family farm with its Environmental Stewardship Award. Randy Brown talked about the importance of maintaining the environmental integrity of the land around the families’ homes.

“We drink water from the same well that the pigs get their water from,” he said. “We’re very conscious of the environment because we live here.”

Randy’s brother Tom said the families are only doing what most other farmers do as well.

“I believe that 99.9 percent of the farmers are doing what’s right (when it comes to maintaining the environment on their farms),” he said.

Four Ohio legislators personally participated in the event: Rep. Edna Brown, D-Toledo; Rep. Tony Core, R-Rushsylvania; Rep. Diana Fessler, R-New Carlisle; and Rep. Jim McGregor, R-Gahanna, who attended last year’s inaugural legislative tour. McGregor said he decided to attend again because he was assured he’d see different operations, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“It was not redundant; it was just as innovative,” McGregor said. “The biggest thing I saw was the outstanding conservation measures (being undertaken at each farm). If only our cities could manage manure as well as these farms do.”

The Franklin County lawmaker’s background is in conservation and he was pleased to see DayLay’s plan to restore Bokes Creek, a tributary to the Scioto River that runs through the operation. “Cities need to manage their streams just as well as our farmers do,” he said. He also commented on the family operations. “These may be larger farms, but they’re still family operations.”

Besides the memory of holding a baby pig, Rep. Fessler said the top things she took away from the tour were “an appreciation of how a fairly large operation that isn’t required to have an ODA (Ohio Department of Agriculture livestock) permit has voluntarily done an outstanding job in addressing the concerns typically associated with large-farm operations, and the knowledge that I would rather live near a well-run large-scale operation that has taken the necessary steps to be a good neighbor than to live near a small operation that does nothing to properly address social and health issues related to their farming procedures.”

Toledo resident Rep. Brown said she decided to attend the tour because “by nature, I’m a very curious person; I like to experience things I’ve never seen before. … I could read all day about farms on the Internet, but until you actually see one you really can’t get a good grasp on what it all entails.”

White said legislative tours like the one held last year and in mid-May this year will probably become annual events.

“It’s important that we continue to show our lawmakers how agriculture is inter-related. We all work together because we care deeply about the economy, the environment and rural communities,” White said. He pointed out that both DayLay and Maken Bacon work closely, just like thousands of farmers throughout Ohio, with their local soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) to develop and implement nutrient management and conservation plans.

“Obviously, the future - short and long term - will determine whether or not we were successful in accomplishing our mission with this type of tour. However, based upon the reactions we received from tour participants, I believe we can consider this event a success,” White said.

This farm news was published in the May 24, 2006 issue of Farm World.

5/24/2006