Ohio Farmers Union 2017 policy priorities set

Stemming the dramatic increases in taxes on farmland and compiling data on the density of livestock in Ohio’s watersheds lead the Ohio Farmers Union’s list of public policy priorities for the year.

CAUV, or Current Agricultural Use Valuation is the formula used to value farmland for tax purposes in Ohio. Since about 2011, that formula has not worked due to historically low Federal Reserve interest rates and market turmoil. While the Kasich Administration could change the formula administratively, OFU members are seeking the help of the Ohio General Assembly.

“Agricultural property tax increases are becoming an ‘existential threat ‘ to family farmers and rural land owners in Ohio,” OFU President Joe Logan said. “In recent years, our farmers have suffered increases in CAUV of 300 to 600%, while ag commodities have plummeted.”

“It’s just doesn’t make sense that yet another round of state income cuts will be paid for in part by farmers – after they’ve already contributed in the form of triple digit tax increases in previous budgets,” Logan said.

Logan said one issue that narrowly missed being passed by delegates was a proposed “$0 tax value” for Ohio’s woodlands.

“Woodlands owners are taking it on the chin in terms of taxes they pay versus the revenue those acres generate. Considering the environmental benefits that forests provide, we need to adjust tax rates to encourage more woodlands. The fact that we had a lengthy debate on our convention floor about zero tax values for woodlands should wake up policy makers in Columbus about the need to revamp CAUV,” Logan said.

Regarding water quality and harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Mary’s and other Ohio watersheds, Logan said OFU adopted a “special order of business” at its recent convention proposing some further action by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture.

“Part of the solution to our ag nutrient problem is to avoid overloading livestock into watersheds – beyond the capacity of the cropland to utilize those nutrients.  As a first step in getting there, OFU proposes that the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture make an accurate assessment of all livestock operations within each watershed,” Logan said.

“Because the Dept. of Agriculture now oversees both the CAFO permitting program as well as Soil and Water Conservation Districts, they have access to this valuable data and the capacity to aggregate it in a way that would safeguard farmer’s proprietary information, while compiling it in a way that would be extremely useful in developing a comprehensive strategy to manage nutrient runoff,” Logan added.

“We need data on all the livestock operations in our watersheds, not just the animals raised by licensed CAFOs,” Logan said.  “It’s a common sense, next step in the policy-making process to clean up watersheds like the western basin of Lake Erie.”

“If we don’t develop better systems to understand and manage our nutrient loading into Lake Erie, we will continue to suffer from algal blooms and may face another Toledo-style crisis or kill tourism and other economic benefits of the lake,” Logan said.

“As farmers, business people and citizens, we want to clean up our watersheds before the U.S. EPA comes in with more draconian measures,” Logan said.

Delegates to OFU’s recent 83rd Annual Convention also approved five other special orders dealing with:

  • Maintaining the link between ag policy and public nutrition in the next federal Farm Bill;
  • Placing former Ohio Dept. of Corrections farmland into a “Community Land Trust” to be used by young farmers of limited resources;
  • Ensuring that any replacement of the Affordable Care Act assures “same or better” coverage
  • Reforming the nation’s dairy policy and pricing structure;
  • Reiterated a policy from last year calling on a moratorium on the use of Class II injection wells for wastewater disposal of fracking and other oil and gas operations – and the adoption of Class I standards for such injection wells.

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