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ODA director describes approach to oversight
Over the years, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has been consistent in running and growing the state’s $107 billion agriculture industry, the department’s director said.
“Agriculture has been that thing that smoothed us out or at least kept our economy where it’s been and has provided some stability,” said Dave Daniels, who was appointed by Gov. John Kasich in February to lead the department.
Daniels, who grew up on a Greenfield farm that has been in his family since the early 1800s, spoke recently about ODA’s role in the state’s economy on Town Hall Ohio. Even though he’s only been on the job for four months, he feels confident that the 417 employee department is running smoothly. ODA recently talked with various businesses to see what their impressions were of the department, and he was pleased with the results.
“They feel we are doing a good job and not overreaching our authority,” he said.
While regulation is an important component of the department, Daniels said the emphasis is on education first and then regulation.
“That keeps us out of their day-to-day operations, which is what most people want,” said Daniels, who started out as a city council member and mayor before serving in the House and Senate.
Preserving the state’s environment is one of the more pressing issues that ODA is dealing with now, he said. The department is working on how to improve water quality throughout Ohio, in particular at Grand Lake St. Marys. While state officials have identified agriculture nutrients as a major source of the problem at the lake, Daniels said municipal waste water systems and septic tanks also are to blame.
“We’re working every day to find the right path to make sure farmers are being responsible, and I think they are,” he said. “There are still a lot of questions that we need to answer. We know phosphorous is a problem but we’re not sure how it is leaving the farm or entering the stream. We’re going to do our best to find answers to those questions.”
Daniels said agriculture will continue to be an economic driver in the state, and ODA is looking for ways to expand business opportunities for farmers and increase food processing and production in Ohio.
Food safety is also a priority for the department and other states look to Ohio for help in testing during salmonella outbreaks.
“A lot of other states are sending us their produce and product for us to test for them. We are not only taking care of what happens inside Ohio’s borders but we’re also monitoring part of that food chain from all over the United States,” he said.Photo by Chip Nelson