Ohio’s Farmers Should be Growing Food, Not Fuel

Sixteen and counting. That’s 16 Republican presidential candidates in case you hadn’t been keeping track.

If that seems a bit ridiculous, you might be right, but one of the candidates – our Gov. John Kasich – is likely to influence the national dialogue in a way that will benefit Ohio by virtue of his experience here in the heartland of America.

Many of you know me as your Clermont County commissioner, while only a few of you may know that my family owns and operates Vista Grand Ranch, a bison farm that provides locally-raised buffalo to support healthy lifestyles right here in southwest Ohio and throughout the state. How we utilize our natural resources and farm our land is a critically important decision for us that will impact future generations. Interestingly, a federal mandate with good intentions – to reduce our fossil fuel consumption – is having unintended consequences that greatly impacts how we’re farming our land.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, is a federal mandate that calls for an increasing amount of biofuels, mostly corn ethanol, to be blended into gasoline. The requirement causes farmers to switch fields to corn or plow over unplanted areas and prairies to grow more of it. To get the best yield on soils not ideal for the crop, they douse it with fertilizer, releasing excess phosphorus and nitrates into the environment, where they help native plants in rivers and lakes proliferate. We’re even seeing fertilizer run-off from corn acreage as a large contributor to the Gulf of Mexico’s annual dead zone, an area where there is too little oxygen for marine life.

In Toledo, a massive bloom in 2014 left more than half a million people in the city without drinking water. The Ohio Environmental Council declared, “A much better job needs to be done of managing the agricultural phosphorus that feeds the algal blooms.” They’re right. We do.

What’s more, one in six Ohio households reduces the number or quality of their meals because they cannot afford nutritious food, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, and we have a 13.9 percent food stamp participation rate in our state. Here’s an alarming fact that makes those numbers even more unsettling: a significant amount of corn grown in Ohio is being used to create ethanol, when it could be feeding these individuals and families in need. Repurposing the significant corn production in this state to be used as food instead of fuel can help to reduce these statistics.

There’s no question, it’s time to reform the RFS.

Gov. Kasich has denounced arbitrary mandates and government subsidies that would do harm to the livelihood of Ohio farmers. As a leader on the national stage, our Governor has a tremendous opportunity to speak against the RFS, represent the interests of the heartland and ensure this bad policy can do no additional harm to our quality of life.

Just last month, U.S, Rep. Brad Wenstrup announced he is cosponsoring HR 703 – the Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act. If enacted, the bill would repeal the RFS entirely.

It’s time for us to raise our voices. If we want to see real change in Ohio, we need to work together to fight for what is best for our state. Join me in protecting Ohio by visiting smarterfuelfuture.org to learn more and take action to help reform the ethanol mandate.

 

Written by David Uible

Published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, August 5, 2015