WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today attended a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to examine how biobased manufacturing can create jobs in rural Ohio. At the hearing, entitled, ‘Growing Jobs in Rural America,’ Denny Hall, a sixth-generation farmer from Union County and the assistant director of the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center (OBIC), testified before the committee.
“Biobased manufacturing brings together two of Ohio’s most important industries: agriculture and manufacturing,” Brown said. “With more than 130 biobased manufacturers in Ohio, we’re seeing more home-grown, ‘Made in Ohio’ products. From natural pet foods and biobased paint, to soy ink and toner, these companies are creating jobs in Ohio’s small towns and rural communities.”
Ohio has a strong biobased manufacturing infrastructure with nearly 130 companies producing biobased products. During the Strickland administration, Ohio was the first state in the country to adopt a biobased procurement program—based largely on the Federal biopreferred program—which requires state purchasing preference for bioproducts when available.
Since 2005, Denny Hall has served as assistant director of the OBIC at The Ohio State University where he also received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Hall has worked with OSU extension for more than 28 years, first as an extension agent in Allen, Franklin, and Madison counties. As OBIC assistant director, Hall has helped more than 60 OBIC collaborators in securing more than $100 million in supplemental funding to accelerate research and commercialization activities.
OBIC is an alliance of industry and academic organizations and institutions focused on the commercialization of biobased technologies and products. OBIC links two of Ohio's major business sectors: agriculture and the polymer/advanced-materials sectors.
In advance of the 2012 Farm Bill, Brown launched his ‘Grown in Ohio’ listening tour in Chesterland at the Patterson Fruit Farm last month and held a second listening session at the Hirsch Fruit Farm in Chillicothe last week. In coming months, Brown will hold additional listening sessions across the state. These sessions are often where policy ideas emerge. At a similar listening session during consideration for the 2008 Farm Bill, the idea for the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program was born and eventually adopted in the final bill. The ACRE provision allows farmers to choose a new safety net program that protects against drops in yield or prices, which is critical for farmers given the uncertain and volatile agriculture markets.
In March, Brown addressed the Ohio Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C., where he announced his plans for the ‘Grown in Ohio’ tour. At that speech, Brown outlined priorities for economic development and job growth in Ohio’s agricultural industry. In March, Brown also held a call with nearly 30 Ohio farmers to announce that he is the new chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth, and Energy. The critical panel is responsible for job creation in small towns and rural communities and the continued development of renewable fuels and clean energy technologies that support rural America.
Brown has held more than 170 roundtables throughout the state, and he is the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and the first Ohioan ever to serve simultaneously on the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee. Agriculture is Ohio’s largest industry.
Below is Brown’s testimony, as prepared for delivery.
Mr. Hall comes before this Committee today to share his experiences and perspective on the burgeoning bio-based industry.
He is Assistant Director of the Ohio BioProducts Innovation Center, at Ohio State University. He is also sixth generation farmer in Union County, Ohio.
And not only does he bring decades of experience in agriculture as a farmer, he has also been with Ohio State University Extension for 28 years.
He has worked with students and educators at through OSU’s college of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, ensuring a next-generation of farmers for our state and nation.
Thank you, Mr. Hall, for traveling to Washington today and sharing your expertise and perspective with this Committee.
The bio-based products industry holds vast potential in Ohio and across the country.
The growth of biobased products is strengthening the connection between Ohio-grown crops and Ohio-made products.
Ohio is home to approximately 130 companies that use agricultural crops to make new products, ranging from natural pet foods, biobased paint, to soy ink and toner.
These companies are creating jobs throughout Ohio. And in doing so they are creating new market opportunities for farmers.
Our nation’s prosperity depends on the strength of its agriculture and manufacturing sector.
With the development of biobased products, Ohio’s harvest can support job growth in small towns and rural communities across the state.
Ultimately agriculture is not just about putting food on the table. It is about strong rural communities, a thriving manufacturing sector, and the growth of our nation’s economy.
To date the federal government has provided minimal support for these efforts. But given the potential this is an area this Committee needs to examine closely.
Thank you for holding this hearing today.
I look forward to working with this Committee and those who have experience launching biobased companies to make sure the USDA has the tools it needs to help the biobased products industry reach its full potential.