By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
The current issues and concerns around rural Ohio always seem to generate some debate as Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) delegates hash out policy. Beyond grassroots policy development, awards are presented, networking transpires and successes are highlighted each year at the OFBF Annual Meeting in December.
From new houses to solar fields, pressure on agricultural land being developed was a key topic discussed by delegates at the104th installment. In all, 366 delegates representing all county Farm Bureaus participated in the debate and discussion.
“Robust discussion from the delegate floor speaks to the passion of our members and the core of our grassroots organization,” said Jack Irvin, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) vice president of public policy. “Policy has been set by our members and it’s now our job to advocate for those policies at the Statehouse and in Washington, D.C., on behalf of them and Ohio agriculture.”
New policy included support of clear standards for oil and gas pipeline construction and standards for the repair and remediation of land impacted by utility easements. Delegates also supported the call for additional funding for the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Clean Ohio Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP) to help meet demand and better reflect agricultural easement values.
Policy to establish impact fees to be assessed when solar development sites take farmland out of production was supported by delegates. In the policy, money generated from such impact fees would help fund the purchase of farmland preservation easements in the state. Community scale solar projects outside of Ohio Power Siting Board jurisdiction should be subject to local zoning regulation under another new policy adopted by delegates at the annual meeting.
“The pressure on farms as far as energy development is really unbelievable. It can make it very difficult to want to maintain a farm in in this type of environment, but at the same time we want to protect the ability for farmers to be able to continue to farm,” said Bill Patterson, OFBF president. “At the end of the day we have to run that balance of protecting the landowner’s ability to utilize their land within reason and also the ability to make sure that Ohio is still relevant as far as the agricultural community.”
Finding this careful balance between development and preserving farmland, while protecting landowner rights, is no easy task, said Brandon Kern, OFBF senior director of state and national policy. There are many broad issues, and details, to consider.
“We’re seeing development pressure from all sides, whether it’s housing or big economic development projects. It is all taking farmland. It’s been an increasing topic of concern for a lot of our members. Some of the policy proposals coming from counties are directly reflective of making sure that landowners and farm ground are taken care of when utility easements go through. Do we have a fair playing field? Are we accounting for and taking measures to preserve farmland in addition to some of these development projects? Should solar companies pay into a fund that would help provide offsets in a farmland preservation program so that we can do more easements? That’s definitely a topic of conversation,” Kern said. “One of the things we’re talking to policymakers about is redevelopment of brownfields and areas that had been once developed already. Why aren’t we looking at that ground before taking prime farmland out of production?”
Water quality continues to be a policy discussion topic as well, said Jordan Hoewischer, OFBF director of water quality and research.
“Ohio’s farmers and their nutrient management are judged on if Lake Erie is green or not. There was a pretty significant bloom this year and it lasted longer than it normally does, but that’s not indicative of the effort farmers are putting out there. Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio program has been really great. We have increased the adoption rate of a lot of different conservation practices on a million acres with thousands of farmers stepping up and getting into these programs to improve water quality and soil health,” Hoewischer said. “There’s not one single practice. It’s a suite of practices applied to your land, your soil type, your topography, the crop system you’re in, the size of farm. It makes a big difference. There’s no clear answer, but there are a lot of solutions that make sense — it’s just a matter of how you package them to work on your farm.”
In the area of eminent domain, a new policy recommends the compensation awarded to a landowner in an eminent domain case include compensation for lost future income from the land being taken. Additional policy recommended new disclosure requirements whenever a landowner is threatened with eminent domain. The organization also established several new policies in the area of wildlife management. Policies to help prevent crop damage caused by wildlife and the identification and containment of wildlife diseases were considered and adopted.
The following Ohio Farm Bureau members were elected as officers and to the state board of trustees during the organization’s 2022 annual meeting.
• Bill Patterson of Chesterland has been re-elected president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, which is the highest elected office in the state’s largest farm and food organization. Patterson has been on the state board since 2011 as District 4 trustee representing Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties.
• Cy Prettyman of New Bloomington has been re-elected first vice president of the organization. He joined OFBF’s board of trustees in 2012. He will continue as the District 7 representative covering Crawford, Marion, Morrow and Richland counties.
• Chris Weaver of Lyons has been elected treasurer of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Weaver has been a member of OFBF’s board of trustees for 9 years and represents members in his district that encompasses Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties.
• District 1 Trustee Chris Weaver: Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties
• District 5 Trustee Craig Pohlman: Allen, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert counties
• District 6 trustee John Bolte: Hancock, Hardin, Seneca and Wyandot counties
• District 10 Trustee Mike Bensman: Auglaize, Logan, Mercer and Shelby counties
• District 13 Trustee Mackenzie Deetz: Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties
• District 15 Trustee Mike Videkovich: Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties
• District 19 Trustee Nicol Reiterman: Clinton, Fayette, Greene and Warren counties
• District 20 Trustee Nathan Brown: Adams, Brown, Clermont and Highland counties
• Southwest Regional Trustee Steve Berk: Adams, Brown, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clermont, Clinton, Darke, Delaware, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Madison, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Union and Warren counties.