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Ohio has new leadership at the top of three U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies that play a significant role in the day-to-day life of farming operations in the state. Earlier this year, Jonathan McCracken was appointed Rural Development state director, John Patterson was appointed Farm Service Agency state executive director in Ohio, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service recently named John Wilson as the new state conservationist. All three recently spent time in the studio with Our Ohio Weekly host Ty Higgins.
McCracken is a native of Wilmington, Ohio, and most recently served as a senior advisor to Sen. Sherrod Brown prior to being appointed as Ohio’s Rural Development state director. Throughout his career, he has held various legislative positions related to agriculture, rural development, food, nutrition, energy and environmental policy.
As state director, he serves as the chief executive officer of Rural Development in the state and is tasked with carrying out the mission of rural development to the benefit of everyone in rural Ohio.
“Our first mission that we’ve been focusing on is to make sure that rural communities have the tools they need to bounce back from the past two years,” he said. “The way (the office of) rural development works is we actually have an office here in Columbus, but then we have four area offices across the state. Those offices do amazing work, and these folks are going out into the field. They’re meeting with small businesses, they’re meeting with mayors, they’re talking about these great (USDA) programs. They’re on the front lines, and we want to make sure folks know about these programs (and how) they’re able to invest in their communities.”
Patterson is a former state legislator and retired teacher whose work experience spans over 40 years. He recently completed eight years in the Ohio House until term limits prohibited his continued service. During his time in the House, Patterson served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, including two terms as ranking member and was co-author of bills supporting H2Ohio and the beginning farmers tax credit.
As state executive director of the Farm Service Agency, Patterson will be responsible for overseeing the delivery of FSA programs to agricultural producers in Ohio. These commodity, conservation, credit, and disaster assistance programs ensure a safe, affordable, abundant and nutritious food, fiber and fuel supply for consumers.
Patterson spoke about building relationships, water quality, conservation and farm succession planning during his interview for Our Ohio Weekly.
“For a young person to get started with equipment, with livestock, with land or with rental, it’s an enormous undertaking,” he said. “Unless we incentivize the older folks to come alongside the younger ones, to raise them up and to give them a pathway forward with succession at 57 or average age 57-and-a-half, we’re going to have a major problem down the road.”
In his role, Wilson will provide soil, water and natural resource conservation leadership, overseeing programs and partnerships that provide both financial and technical assistance to private landowners to improve the health of their operations while protecting natural resources for the future.
“We really focus on providing technical expertise on the voluntary efforts,’’ he said. “We have quite a few newer employees in Ohio. A lot of them have come on since COVID hit, so we are going to be introducing ourselves to some folks. We’ve tried to do as much virtual training as we can, but there’s nothing better than having that face-to-face training. So we’re intending to really work on that as one of the priorities.”
Learn more about these new leaders through Our Ohio Weekly podcasts.
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