Ohio Farm Bureau members once again gathered in Columbus to discuss priority issues for Ohio agriculture and meet with legislators to educate them at today’s Ag Day at the Capital.
“With over 300 strong, we meet with legislators to talk about our priority issues including environmental stewardship, agricultural education, and improving Ohio’s business climate,” said Steve Hirsch, Ohio Farm Bureau president. “We need to take this experience home to our farms. The challenge before us is how to bring the important work today back to our homes and communities.”
The group heard from Ohio Senator Bob Peterson, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Mandy Hagan with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Amy Rohling McGee with the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, and Steven Brockshus, National FFA vice president, among others.
Matt Reese visited with Hagan, Vice President of State Affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association about the hot topic of GMO labeling.
One of the key state level issues in 2014 will be water quality.
“Ohio’s farmers are working to protect Ohio waters. We know we have an issue in Ohio but we also know that there are multiple sources contributing to this issue. There are scientific questions we know need to be addressed with this issue,” said Adam Sharp, vice president of public policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “Yes, agriculture is a contributor, but agriculture is doing a lot to solve the problems with water quality. We are taking responsibility here. We know all of the good work you guys are doing on your farms to protect your water. The legislators do not know that. They may have an idea, but they do not know all that you do. That is a story you need to share with them.”
Moving forward, agriculture’s proactive efforts with water quality will be vitally important.
“There is a lot happening with water quality on a state and federal level. States have to come up with plans to meet federal standards,” Sharp said. “If we don’t have our own solution, the EPA will move forward with statutory activity and regulatory activity. They are trying to do good work and they will give us flexibility, but we have to take advantage of it.”
Senate Bill 150 has been an important part of this process.
“SB 150 was introduced about a year ago and there were some problems with it. We had to work through that to put together what we believe is a very good piece of legislation that will be workable by farmers,” Sharp said. “Thank your legislators for this. The House has not voted on this yet. We anticipate a possible vote next week or the week after. It passed unanimously through the Senate.”
Other key issues being discussed at the event included working to ensure a a fair tax system in Ohio, helping to navigate the changes in health care, and expanding business opportunities for agriculture. On the federal level, farm bill implementation, immigration reform and waterways, dams and transportation infrastructure improvements will be important in 2014, said Brandon Kern, Ohio Farm Bureau director of state policy, to the group of OFBF members preparing to meet with Ohio legislators today.
“Nothing we do with lobbying makes a bigger impact than this group gathered together to share Farm Bureau’s message,” he said.