Daily Court Reporter - News Organic farm group critical of Ohio Smart Agriculture plan
Organic farm group critical of Ohio Smart Agriculture plan
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association characterized a recent report by Ohio Smart Agriculture as falling short in addressing environmental challenges.
Ohio Smart Agriculture, an initiative to strengthen partnership among agricultural, environmental, food security and health leaders across the state, released its Solutions from the Land, which details critical challenges facing Ohio agriculture, including unpredictable and extreme rainfall events and nutrient runoff leading to algal blooms.
"To our dismay, the report is silent when it comes to the potential of organic farming practices to foster the resilience of Ohio agriculture, address environmental challenges, and deliver ecosystem services," said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.
She noted that research has established that organic farming increases soil health, sequesters carbon, protects water quality, increases biological diversity, and mitigates rainfall variability.
Organic is the fastest growing sector of the food industry, with annual double-digit growth far outstripping growth in the remainder of the sector, and organic crops command a significant price premium over conventionally-grown crops, the group cited.
Not only are more farms transitioning to organics, the businesses needed to support them are also growing at a fast pace.
"The report seems stuck in the 1980s when 'organic' was a dirty word to some," said Goland. "This notable omission means that it simply fails to serve Ohioans as fully as it could, excluding important economic opportunities for farmers and failing to embrace very powerful solutions for increasing resilience and delivering ecosystem services in our farming systems."
Organic farms and businesses tend to cluster geographically into what have been identified as "organic hot spots." Compared to other counties, the 225 "organic hot spots" in the U.S. are distinguished by having lower rates of poverty and higher average incomes, a press release detailed.
"It is well established that organic agriculture benefits our environment and our own health," she said. "We now have a demonstrated economic reason for our policies to support organic farming, which is a true 'solution from the land.' If not now, when? We simply can't wait."
Solutions from the Land is an action plan to transform the state's agricultural landscapes into resilient, climate-smart and multifunctional production platforms that improve food and child nutrition security, public health and environmental quality and mitigate the impacts of increasingly unpredictable and more extreme weather, according to the report.
Its 50 recommendations include rebuilding the state's former processing and supply chain infrastructure for the distribution of Ohio-grown foods and addressing access to fresh foods in Ohio's food deserts.
"We applaud the work of the committee and its recommendations in the Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land report related to reducing hunger, improving nutrition, and using local food economies to fuel job creation and economic growth," said Goland.
She concluded that the ideas were advanced more than 10 years ago by the now-defunct Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council.
Date Published: April 26, 2019