OSU cuts research funding
Cuts won't affect diagnosis of diseases such as mad cow and foot-and-mouth.
RIPLEY, Ohio (AP) -- Cattle farmer Brian Michael was able to save money by weaning his calves earlier, something he wouldn't have tried if he hadn't seen state researchers do it first.
"It's hard to take some chances on your own," he said. "It would be expensive for me to make a mistake."
Michael, who raises cattle on 3,000 acres here in southwest Ohio, will have to find another way to check agricultural research next year. Government-sponsored farms and labs across the country are being closed or consolidated because of budget problems.
Ohio State University is closing the station near this village and is stopping research at a farm near Coshocton in eastern Ohio. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to do research there.
Besides cattle research, the Ripley farm is trying to figure out which hybrids of apples and wine grapes grow best in the region's climate and soil.
Other centers have worked to improve the health of dairy cattle, develop leaner pork and minimize the runoff of fertilizers and herbicides into ground water.
Dennis Avery, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and an agriculture expert for the State Department in the 1980s, said agricultural research has been critical in enabling U.S. farmers to produce more per acre and prevent the plowing up of more acreage unnecessarily. And he said new technologies produced by research are needed to protect and maintain crops.
What this means
"The short-term impact will be higher costs for farmers," he said of budget cuts. "The ultimate impact is that society will need more land to feed people."
The problem is state revenue falling behind estimates.
In the past two years, the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources has downgraded one of its five research centers to a thinly staffed agricultural lab. The university also closed two labs where veterinarians had advised livestock farmers and conducted autopsies on animals to diagnose any diseases. The cuts saved $1 million.
The reductions won't affect diagnosis of diseases such as mad cow or foot-and-mouth because the samples would be sent to federal labs for diagnosis, said Alan Moeller, the institute's assistant vice chancellor.
In Ohio, farm research will be cut by $1.4 million this year and $2.1 million next year. Gov. Bob Taft ordered cuts at nearly all state agencies because of a $100 million deficit this year and an expected shortfall of $300 million next year.
Steve Pueppke, president of the National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, said state research efforts are important because they are tailored to the crops and livestock prevalent in each state.
Tom Sachs, executive director of the Ohio Fruit Growers Society, said fruit farmers use Ohio's research centers extensively and this year spent $85,000 of their own money to help fund several projects.
Danny Gray, who raises cattle and tobacco in southwest Ohio's Brown County, said state research helped him decide to use a bug killer on his tobacco to kill aphids and saved him about $500 an acre.
According to a 2003 study by the Columbus-based Battelle Memorial Institute requested by Taft's office, Ohio farm research projects have improved soil fertility, controlled pests, prevented infectious diseases among animals, controlled crop losses because of disease and increased crop, meat and poultry yields through breeding and nutrition.
One soybean project brought $191 million and 4,030 jobs into the state economy, according to the study.
"Inexpensive, safe, abundant food doesn't just happen," said Joe Cornely, spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. "The farmer needs the right kind of production inputs, the right kind of expertise relayed to him."
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