By Matt Reese
My 4-year-old nephew Michael is well versed in the subtleties of personal advocacy. On a recent stay at his grandparents, Michael had apparently seen evidence of the need for his grandfather to deposit some checks at the bank in the near future. He asked his grandpa if he needed to make a trip to the bank that day with the checks. Delighted with the opportunity to enjoy the company of his grandson on a mundane trip into town, grandpa of course complied with the request. While it is certain that Michael enjoyed the time with his grandfather, he expressed no hesitation whatsoever in his hasty acceptance of the sucker offered up by the bank’s drive-through teller.
The world is full of people who see problems and complain about them to no avail. Michael saw a problem: no sucker. He took the steps necessary to actually amend the problem. That’s as grassroots as it gets, folks.
Advocacy if often broken down into 3 categories (these are summaries of definitions from West Virginia University).
- Self-advocacy: speaking up for yourself (this is where Michael excels).
- Individual advocacy is a person (such as a lawyer) or group speaking up for an individual or small group.
- Systems advocacy is about changing policies, laws or rules that impact how someone lives their life. The focus can be changing laws, or simply written or unwritten policy. This is where Ohio’s agricultural organizations really come into play.
January has been full of examples of farmers in Ohio who took an advocacy cue from Michael by seeing problems and taking real steps to try and correct them through systems advocacy and involvement with their farm organization of choice. This is a very valuable form of advocacy both for the individual to have a viable outlet for addressing the problems they see, but also learning about the functions of the system from others in the organization and the organization itself.
Corn farmers at the local level in Ohio and around the country identified a serious issue of skyrocketing fertilizer costs and worked at the state and national levels of their organizations to address the very complex issue. The results were the National Corn Growers Association commissioning a couple of studies to dig into this frustrating issue. Ohio Corn & Wheat members have specifically participated in the efforts to try to address part of the problem by reaching out to a couple of fertilizer behemoths on existing and proposed tariffs in late 2021 and early 2022.
In addition, The Ohio Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) gathered in January to set the policies they plan to advocate in favor of in the coming year and celebrate their previous advocacy successes. OCA members play an important role in the process of advocacy for the beef industry at the local level up through the federal government.
The Ohio Fair Managers Association met in January as well to take a look back at a nearly universally strong 2021 for Ohio’s county and independent fairs after a brutal 2020. OFMA plays a very important advocacy role in working with the Ohio Department of Agriculture in annually tweaking the broad set of rules that must be implemented and followed by fairs in the state.
Farm Bureau members from around the country gathered in Atlanta in January for the American Farm Bureau Convention as well to set policy derived from the county level up. AFBF members addressed long-standing frustration over imbalances in the meat industry leading to calls for greater transparency in livestock markets. Delegates also approved measures that build on existing policies regarding the need for employee stabilization and reforms to the guestworker program. Other topics covered in AFBF policy included: transparency to the federal milk pricing system; a more consistent format for milk checks and a review and audit of the producer price differential on milk; biofuel policy updates to include renewable diesel; support in raising the standard for federal broadband projects to be at least 100 Mbps for both uploads and downloads; support of new policy creation for acknowledging agriculture’s (including urban agriculture) economic contributions. Ohio Farm Bureau delegates proposed several policy changes accepted by AFBF.
“There are two that I think are of particular note. In the area of national conservation and environmental policy, Ohio proposed new policy to call on the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide timely increases in the cost-share values for conservation programs. This is important to ensure programs like EQIP are accurately accounting for the rapid increase in the cost of materials considering the significant inflationary pressures we are experiencing,” said Brandon Kern, senior director of state and national policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “Also in regard to landowner rights, Ohio won support for new policy that calls on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to establish procedures ensuring landowners impacted by right-of-way placement for construction and operation of all pipelines are treated fairly. Landowner concerns that can be explored at the national level as part of adopting this new policy include ensuring easement settlements reflecting the long-term use and value of the property and ensuring adequate repair and remediation payments are made to landowners.”
The happenings of just the last few weeks demonstrate that few states have better systems advocacy opportunities for farmers than Ohio. I’d encourage you to find a way to participate. Just as sure as a sucker from the bank teller, you’ll get out more than you put in.