ROSSBURG — Encouraging young poultry producers not to “give up or get frustrated,” Gov. John Kasich visited a Darke County turkey farm June 8.
The governor’s stop came on the heels of last week’s announcement from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) that it was banning all live bird exhibitions in an effort to prevent Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), or “avian flu,” from infecting poultry in the state.
This preventative measure applies to every county event, including the Darke County Fair, as well as the Ohio State Fair.
Currently, there have been no reports of infection among Ohio birds. Neighboring state Indiana reported one instance of avian flu in May.
States such as Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, however, have suffered significant poultry losses.
The gathering took place at Zumbrink Farms, a turkey facility near Rossburg. Among those assembled were youngsters from various local agriculture clubs who will not be exhibiting their poultry at fairs due to the ODA decree.
Kasich was joined at Zumbrink Farms by ODA Director David T. Daniels.
Daniels told the crowd, “I want to commend the [poultry] industry for all they’re doing to protect Ohio’s commercial flocks from the spread of this disease.”
The director also addressed the young people directly, telling them, “While it’s unfortunate you that you don’t get this opportunity to show, it’s also a very great learning opportunity for you as well,” he said.
“Ohio is one of the largest egg-producing states in the United States, and we play a very important role in putting food on people’s plates every day,” Daniels added, “and you’re a part of that. “
Kasich also spoke directly to the young poultry exhibitors seated on hay bales, asking them questions about their poultry-raising experience and if they understood the reasons they would not be able to show their birds this summer.
Kasich praised youth working in agriculture, saying, “You learn so many skills in agriculture. You learn patience, you learn disappointment, you learn personal responsibility, you learn teamwork — this just builds you into a special person.”
“The qualities, the values that farmers have — they’re the best we have in the country.”
“The country can learn a lot from people who are in agriculture. The country can learn a lot from these kids,” he said.
Regarding the cancellation of bird exhibitions at fairs, Kasich said, “This is a great disappointment. You’ve put a lot of time in. It’s a tough one, and sometimes we learn from our disappointments. But there’s going to be another day. We don’t want you to give up or get frustrated. This is a good time to learn a lot of things.”
“When I was nine, I was disappointed because I could never make the baseball team, but I became governor, so I learned something,” he said, to laughter.
“We want you to know that we came here for you,” he said. “Because we know you’re disappointed, and we want you to know that you’re part of our team.”
After earlier characterizing himself as the “President of Ohio,” said in order to put his position in better perspective for the young attendees, Kasich was asked by reporters when he was planning to declare his presumed 2016 candidacy for the White House.
“A while. It’s still away,” he said. “We have a disciplined effort. We try to figure out whether we can win. I’m not going to do this if we can’t win, but things have been extremely positive, and now a lot of people around the country, the pundits and all that, are beginning to recognize the potential.
The governor added, “When I travel around Ohio, people seem to be pretty excited about it. We’re minding the store here, but getting out, telling the Ohio story, it’s only good for Ohio. I spend a lot of time talking about Ohio.”
When asked if he was open to accepting the vice presidency, Kasich responded, “Why would I want to do that? I’m governor of Ohio. There’s not a better job in the country.”
While the governor spoke to the press, the attending youth got the opportunity to try on the protective clothing worn by workers on local poultry farms to prevent the possible spread of disease.