Modernizing Ag-LINK to bolster Ohio’s agriculture community

By Robert Sprague - Guest columnist

It’s been said time and again, and it remains true — agriculture is the backbone of Ohio’s economy. The ag industry creates jobs, spurs economic development, feeds our families, and instills pride in communities across the Buckeye State. As one of Ohio’s biggest economic drivers, a thriving agricultural sector is critical to our state’s prosperity.

Since 1986, our office’s Ag-LINK program has supported farmers and agribusinesses by helping them finance up-front costs for feed, seed, fertilizer, fuel, and other expenses through an interest rate reduction on operating loans up to $150,000 at eligible financial institutions. Over the decades, Ag-LINK has helped to drive down the cost of doing business by making capital more affordable.

While Ag-LINK has proven successful and remains widely popular among the agriculture community, our conversations with participating financial institutions and borrowers have made it clear that we can do more to support this industry. With more than half of Ag-LINK participants borrowing at the current loan cap, it’s time to bring the program in line with the rising capital needs of Ohio’s farmers.

Through our new Ohio Gains initiative, we’ve worked with members of the General Assembly to introduce legislation that will modernize Ag-LINK and better serve the agriculture sector. We’ve proposed eliminating the programmatic and loan caps that deter many from utilizing the program. The reality is, when you’re purchasing large farming equipment and preparing for the upcoming growing season, $150,000 won’t get you too far. By removing these outdated and unnecessary caps, we’ll help ensure Ohio’s agriculture community has access to lower-cost capital when it’s needed most.

Additionally, we’ve proposed adding agricultural cooperatives (co-ops) as eligible borrowers under Ag-LINK. Co-ops face many of the same challenges as other farmers and agribusinesses that are already served through Ag-LINK. Opening the program to co-ops further recognizes their valuable contributions to the industry and economy, and it will give them access to this important cost-reducing tool.

We’re ready to cut the red tape and take Ag-LINK to the next level. These changes proposed under the Ohio Gains legislation will go a long way to meet the needs of the Buckeye State’s next generation of farmers.

By Robert Sprague

Guest columnist

Robert Sprague the treasurer of the state of Ohio.

Robert Sprague the treasurer of the state of Ohio.