Ohio Farmers Union members from around the state gathered at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to discuss pertinent agriculture issues.
Along with meeting with legislators, Roger Wise, president of the Ohio Farmers Union, testified before a House subcommittee asking state lawmakers to alter the Kasich Administration severance tax plan. The subcommittee took testimony on tax-related provisions in the biennial budget, HB 59.
OFU wants some revenue from a proposed increased severance tax to remain in the counties where the tax is collected. OFU also wants a portion of the tax to be set aside for environmental mitigation related to the oil and gas industry.
“We believe these funds should be earmarked for public education and infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges in shale counties which will receive potentially unprecedented industrial traffic due to drilling operations. We are opposed to using 100% of revenues for the purpose of reducing income taxes statewide,” Wise said in testimony to the House Subcommittee on Ways and Means.
Wise spoke about the uniqueness of rural Ohio and said there will be major stress put on rural roads and public services in “shale counties.” He also noted previous cuts to state support for local government.
“For the most part rural Ohio is not complaining about dwindling state support. It would be a shame however for all of the revenue from fracking to be taken from the counties paying the price for progress,” Wise said.
Around 30 members of OFU were on Capitol Square holding meetings with senators and state representatives. Aside from taxes and a mix of other rural issues, OFU was keying on new legislation coming in the Senate — SB 66 — which will make needed updates to Ohio’s grain indemnity law and the farmer-funded grain indemnity fund administered by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture.
Ron Sylvester, Ohio Farmers Union’s External Relations Director, talks about some of the key issues his organization was focusing on at the Statehouse.