Carol Goland, Executive Director, (614) 421-2022, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, email@example.com
Columbus, OH—A report issued by Ohio Smart Agriculture offers solid solutions to address food security and economic growth in the face of changing and uncertain climate, but falls short in tackling environmental challenges, finds the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land 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.
Goland noted that research has established that organic farming increases soil health, sequesters carbon, protects water quality, increases biological diversity, and mitigates rainfall variability.
While the report emphasizes using a framework of “sustainable intensification” as the goal, it is unclear how sustainability will be assessed or achieved.
“This report claims to be looking to the future and innovating, but it is short-sighted in its failure to recognize organics as a holistic and voluntary market-based solution to many of the problems identified,” said Goland.
Organic is the fastest growing sector of the U.S. 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. 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. 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,” said Goland.
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.
“It is well established that organic agriculture benefits our environment and our own health,” said Goland. “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.”
According to the its website, the Ohio Smart Agriculture report is an action plan to transform “Ohio’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.” The report is available here.
The report’s 50 recommendations include rebuilding of Ohio’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.
These laudable goals were advanced more than 10 years ago by the Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council and have remained unaddressed since the Council, established during the Strickland administration and housed at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, was terminated by the Kasich administration.