Attendees got to meet the new Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Brian Baldridge, and hear a discussion about Ohio agricultural priorities from him, Adam Sharp, OFBF executive vice president, and Gov. Mike DeWine.

Budget, eminent domain addressed in Ag Day at the Capital

By Matt Reese

In February, Ohio Farm Bureau members left their farms for the day to make the trip to Columbus and meet with legislators for the 2023 Ag Day at the Capital. Jonathan Francis from Madison County Farm Bureau enjoyed the chance to share the story from his farm. 

Matt Reese talked with Jonathan Francis from Madison County at Ag Day at the Capital.

“So being in Madison County, right next to Franklin, we’ve had some districting changes and our new senator is very urban focused. We were really excited to get the opportunity to meet with her staff and show her the importance of agriculture. She’s not really familiar with Madison County, but we’re excited to show her what we’re about and remind her of the different agricultural issues we face,” Francis said. “We talked a lot about solar with her staff — there’s quite a bit of solar pressure in Madison County so we’re trying to share the good and bad and the ugly of that. We also talked a little bit about eminent domain, reminded her about the upcoming budget and thanked her for her support of agricultural issues. That was our first appointment. Our second appointment was with Rep. Brain Stewart. He’s a great guy. He comes from Pickaway County and knows what’s going on in the ag world. We thanked him for his involvement and support of agriculture.”

In a budget year, that issue was top of mind for Farm Bureau members, said Brandon Kern, senior director, state and national policy for Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

“The state budget will be debated this year by the legislature and there are a lot of important funding aspects to that making sure that all the food safety and livestock inspection programs are well funded and are able to efficiently operate to keep our folks going. We need to make sure we don’t get bogged down by not having enough meat inspectors or enough dairy inspectors and make sure the Department of Agriculture is adequately funded. In a budget year, those are always important things,” Kern said. “We’re also talking about building a new animal disease diagnostic lab here in Ohio. The capital dollars for the brick and mortar and the actual construction of facilities are in place but there’s going to take some added resources to make sure that’s adequately staffed and running efficiently. We’re going to talk to legislators about that in the state budget.”

Ohio land use is also important for Farm Bureau members.

“Outside the budget, we’ve got a really important initiative that we’re pushing this year and that’s eminent domain reform. We want to make sure that the system used for taking property from private property owners for the purpose of an infrastructure project or utility project is as fair and efficient for the landowner as possible. Right now, there are definitely some shortcomings in that system, a lot of hoops and a complicated legal system that landowners have to jump through in order just to question whether the taking is appropriate by some of these entities,” Kern said. “We’re just trying to streamline that process make it a little bit fairer for landowners a little more straightforward. That’s going to be at the top of our priority list this year in this general assembly.”

Kern said members also spent a lot of time talking to legislators about economic development versus the preservation of farmland. 

“Job growth and opportunities are great but you’ve got to think about the impacts to the state’s agricultural industry as well,” Kern said. “We are seeing development pressure from every direction, whether it’s energy, manufacturing facilities, housing being built, and we’ve got to make sure that we have smart growth policies in place to ensure that where that development does happen, we are mitigating how much farmland we’re taking out of production. That’s something that is absolutely top of mind for our members and we’re going to be talking to members of the legislature and the DeWine Administration about that throughout the year as well.”

In addition, Farm Bureau members supported continued work with water quality and the H2Ohio Program, rural health care and mental health initiatives, broadband development, and modernization of the Ohio State Fair. Attendees also got to meet the new Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Brian Baldridge, and hear a discussion about Ohio agricultural priorities from him, Adam Sharp, OFBF executive vice president, and Gov. Mike DeWine. 

Moving forward, OFBF will work to build upon the agricultural relationships cultivated during Ag Day at the Capital. 

“We get our members from off the farm here in the state’s Capital to talk about how policy issues impact their operations personally and that makes such a big impression on legislators,” Kern said.

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