(Posted March 6, 2019)
By Michael Williamson, Staff Writer
Plain City resident Fred Yoder has his finger on the pulse of agriculture at the national level. A member of the U.S. Agriculture Committee, he served as guest speaker at the third in a three-part farmers breakfast series hosted by the Madison County Farm Bureau and the Madison County OSU Extension Office.
The talk, “An Update from Washington,” took place on March 8 at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City. Topics included the farm bill and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as a conversation about crop insurance and water quality.
“There’s been a big challenge with implementing cover crops in corn and soybeans,” Yoder said in an interview prior to his March 8 talk. “There’s a divide where farmers have one thing in mind and politicians have another.”
Cover crops function as a soil conservation tool and, according to the USDA, can help to improve soil quality, erosion, nitrogen production and weed management. They can also maximize those conservation efforts while minimizing the risk of yield reduction.
“We want to take these conservative measures to protect the soil,” Yoder said.
Another important topic is Ohio’s water quality and its connection to farming.
“Our first step is saying, ‘How can we help?’ We have to see what we can do,” Yoder said. “There’s also possible federal help for things like the Lake Erie Basin.”
In the last three to four years, the University of Toledo and Ohio Sea Grant sponsored studies to look at harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie. According to the USDA, reports found “excessive growths of toxin-producing algae” which “adversely impact aquatic life and human health as well as recreation.”
Toxins come from excess phosphorus running into the water, often attributed in-part to field run-off–something that can be reduced by implementing drainage and erosion practices that minimize field run-offs following the harvest season.
Yoder said another hot topic is America’s agricultural relationship to China, specifically regarding trade, tariffs and intellectual property rights.
“I think we’re really close to closing our deal with China,” Yoder said. If the talks go through, he added, it could mean the end to tariffs of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American farm products.
The other conversation is more difficult: putting more strict barriers on intellectual property.
“It’s still a sticking point and something (President Trump) has indicated is one of his goals when it comes to China talks,” Yoder said. “We are the largest producers of corn and soybeans in the world, and it’s important that our business relationships stay strong.”
Yoder added that the United States has seen instances of intellectual property theft from China in the way of seed genetics and other feed and growing practices.
“It’s difficult because you want to manufacture things and work with other countries, and you have to turn your property over to them which leaves us exposed,” Yoder said. “We end up seeing depressed prices here and a lack of imports there. It’s a definite impact to our local farmers here.”
When talking to groups such as the one that gathered for the Madison County farmers breakfast, Yoder drives home the overall idea of making sure farmers are leading the way.
“This is an ever-growing business and we want our farmers to be on top of everything,” he said. “It’s important that they are at the forefront and lead the way.”