Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer said he is looking at working with lawmakers to find a new name for his agency that will give Ohioans a better understanding of its work.
Zehringer said a more appropriate name would be the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Food Safety.
“The functions of our department go beyond its name,” he said during the Ohio Livestock Coalition’s Annual Meeting and Industry Symposium.
Zehringer also believes that opportunities in agriculture go well beyond raising crops and livestock.
“Farming is one of 200 things you can do in agriculture,” he said.
State officials hope more young people will see those opportunities through a new program that would allow fourth graders and a guest to get into the Ohio State Fair for free by showing their report card. They would then be able to engage in a number of educational activities related to agriculture. Ohio Farm Bureau is partnering in the effort.
“The governor really wants to make this a priority,” Zehringer said.
Zehringer also believes that agriculture can lead the effort toward economic recovery. He said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that Mercer County leads the state in agricultural receipts and has the lowest unemployment rate. Higher education needs to better target business needs, he said, noting that there are currently 65,000 open jobs in Ohio.
He also praised the work of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, noting that he recently visited a restaurant that boasted its meat came from animals that were raised humanely.
“Here in Ohio, we can all say that,” he said.
Listen to Director Zehringer discuss a possible name change for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, dealing with state budget cuts, regulatory reform and agriculture’s importance to Ohio on Ohio Farm Bureau’s Town Hall Ohio radio show.