By Matt Reese
The Statehouse in Columbus was abuzz as farmers from every corner of the state descended upon Columbus for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) 2012 Ag Day @ the Capitol. Attendees were briefed on the issues, heard from several speakers and met with lawmakers during the busy few hours of what is the OFBF official kick off of the policy year.
“It is a great opportunity for us to educate our members on issues and then they
have an opportunity to share those issues with their legislators,” said Steve Hirsch, OFBF president. “We’ll talk about nutrient management, the elections in 2012, water quality, redistricting, animal care issues, the budget and other issues. We have very few legislators that have a farm background any more. It important for us to educate them about how important agriculture is for the economy of Ohio, what we do as farmers and how we do it.”
Ohio lawmakers have been busy and the Ohio Farm Bureau had plenty of ground to cover with members. OFBF state priority issues outlined at the event include:
OFBF is advocating for continued funding for farmland preservation efforts and the Clean Ohio Fund that was strongly supported by voters in 2008. The organization also supports funding for the rebuilding of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster after it was damaged by a tornado in 2010.
Friendly business climate
Farms are businesses that can only thrive with a low tax burden, reasonable labor laws and a fair legal system. OFBF supports regulatory reform and a streamlined government that maintains a Department of Agriculture at the cabinet level. OFBF is currently working with lawmakers to pass legislation that would expand the state’s agricultural linked deposit program that provides low interest loans for agriculture. House Bill 415 and Senate Bill 281 expand the total amount of funding available for the program and also the per loan amount.
Legislators are working on including on-farm energy production that is incidental to agricultural operations in the definition of agriculture when at least half of the material used for the energy production is generated on farm. HB 276 establishes the guidelines for this on-farm energy development.
Water quality and nutrient management are going to be very significant issues for agriculture in the coming months. OFBF has been actively involved in the agricultural components of this challenge. OFBF will be closely monitoring these issues as they are considered by the governor and his cabinet agencies in the coming months.
OFBF has been one of the key players in the ongoing process headed up by the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association to develop legislation that creates a voluntary marketing agreement for farms. The voluntary agreement would put food safety and production standards in place so farmers can take a proactive, hands-on approach to promote and market their products while maintaining consistent, but realistic, standards for consumers.