East Palestine March 9 roundtable

Milk leaves Scott Lindsay’s Pine Hill Jersey Farm every day like clockwork, on its way to be made into cheese that is sold throughout the country.

The trucks carrying his life’s work have continued to roll away from the farm in the wake of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, four miles from his business. Everything is operating as normal and on time, he said. The Columbiana Farm Bureau member’s cows, by all accounts, are perfectly fine as well.

And still.

“I live in fear that I’m going to get that call (from his distributor) and they say, ‘in an abundance of caution we can’t take delivery…’” he said, letting the thought that is on many farmers’ minds trail away.

Giving Farm Bureau members a voice
East Palestine Roundtable March 9
From left: Haley Shoemaker, OSU Extension; Organization Director Nick Kennedy; and staff from ODA, including Director Brian Baldridge

As fears from farmers mounted in the weeks following the train derailment that rocked northeast Ohio and grabbed the attention of the nation, Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties Organization Director Nick Kennedy and Ohio Farm Bureau lobbied local, state and federal authorities to listen to members about the need for water and soil testing, as well as their significant concerns about market share loss based on consumer perception and the upcoming planting season following a very mild winter.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration listened. A packed roundtable meeting March 9 in Salem, helmed by Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Brian Baldridge, a farmer himself, brought together the governor’s team, scientists from Ohio State University, representatives from Ohio and U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies, Soil & Water Conservation, USDA, county and state officials, and more than a dozen farmers for a frank discussion on where things stand today. An audience of at least 50 people observed the roundtable discussion, as well as multiple media outlets.

What they heard was, as quickly as possible, soil and water tests are being developed and conducted, site run-off monitoring is taking place, and livestock have shown no signs of illness or lingering effects from the aftermath of the derailment itself or the chemical burn-off that followed.

State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Summers, who has been in constant contact with ODA, his counterpart in Pennsylvania, meat inspectors, farmers and local veterinarians, emphasized that he has had “zero reports” of livestock illnesses from the event. 

“There has been nothing since the derailment to support that our food safety supply has been compromised. None,” he said, noting that what is being posted on social media is “dis-information.”

Train derailment roundtable
The map from US EPA shows the geographic area of the soil testing.

Mark Durno from U.S. EPA talked about the soil sampling program, both on what can still be detected on the ground and what is up to six inches below, that began March 9. As many as 300 areas will be tested for various toxins, focusing on semi-volatile-organics, dioxins and pyrans. Initial results will be ready in 7-12 days after the tests are conducted, he said.

Those results will be disseminated through trusted partners, including Ohio Farm Bureau, Baldridge said.   

Working on answers

Ohio Farm Bureau District 9 State Trustee Danielle Burch, a Columbiana County farmer, said the productive roundtable discussion underscored that “ag is a general driver of the economy and important in our area. The governor, ODA, understand that and hear our concerns. They are working (on answers).”

Ensuring the continuation of a safe food supply and robust farm economy is top of mind for Governor DeWine and ODA, Baldridge said. 

“That is the reason this meeting took place,” Kennedy said. “These are real concerns. Farm Bureau brought these entities together to let farmers and consumers know that their concerns are being heard and addressed.”

In the end, Lindsay said he felt heard after the meeting.

“I feel much better,” he said. “I know that people are working on the answers. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”

Feature image caption: From left State Trustee Danielle Burch (blue shirt), and Columbiana County Farm Bureau members Phil Greenisen, who is the policy chair on the Columbiana County Board of Trustees; Tom Richey and dairy farmer Kevin Baker (speaking).

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
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Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

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Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

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Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
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Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

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Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

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Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
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Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

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So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

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