Buckeye Farm News
Twenty years ago, Dale Arnold was one of dozens of Farm Bureau organization directors out pounding on doors, trying to raise funds to start a program that would promote value-added activities among producers. The concept at the time was difficult for many farmers to grasp, Arnold said.
“During that time, it was hard to explain about value added and the need to expand beyond traditional products such as milk into other value-added products that consumers were looking for. For farmers it was quite a stretch,” Arnold said. “Now whenever you mention the words ‘value-added’, the vast majority of farmers are very familiar with it.”
Today, the program – the Farm Income Enhancement Program – is so successful that it has drawn the attention of ag groups in other states and other land-grant universities, said Tom Sporleder, an Ohio State University professor of agribusiness and Farm Income Enhancement endowed chair.
“The program has helped producers get into all types of value-added investments over the years. One of the program’s first investments was ethanol,” said Sporleder, who has released a special report marking the 20th anniversary of the program.
The idea for the program came from a paper written by OSU professor Dennis Henderson in 1986. The concept was expanded after discussions among Henderson, professor Joseph Havlicek, the department chair of the Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology Department, and C. William Swank, Ohio Farm Bureau’s executive. OFBF helped find donors to contribute to the program, and Nationwide Insurance contributed more than $500,000. April 8, 1998 is the date of the endowment’s creation on paper; the first official activity was a conference held a year later.
“If a farmer or person in ag research has an idea for a product, the center can take the idea and do research and determine what is needed to bring that idea to market,” said Arnold, now director of Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.
Over the years, the Farm Income Enhancement Program has been involved in various activities ranging from outreach endeavors to applied research projects such as creating a new powder from soybeans for use in high-energy drinks.
A major accomplishment of the Farm Income Enhancement Program was being a founder of Heartland Agdeavor Association. The non-profit corporation enhances farm income by providing investment opportunities in businesses that add value to agricultural commodities.
“The Farm Income Enhancement Program provides farmers with the opportunity to study various proposals that might lead to further enhancement of their income. This is a very valuable service since a similar service provided by private industry would cost thousands, perhaps even millions, of dollars, making the study portion of an idea or concept cost prohibitive,” said David White, OFBF’s senior director of policy and research and development who is a member of the Farm Income Enhancement Advisory Council.
The need for the program grows because so many people recognize the importance of having value-added products, Arnold said.
“The need for the center is even greater today with all the technology advances. Twenty years ago, you would never have thought about the things that they are doing today,” he said.