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County Presidents' Trip

Published Mar. 26, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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County Farm Bureau presidents, shown here leaving Capitol Hill, met with lawmakers on a variety of federal issues.

 

Buckeye Farm News 

In all, more than 80 of Ohio’s county Farm Bureau presidents and spokespersons visited with 18 Ohio representatives on a wide array of agricultural issues during the annual lobbying mission to Washington.

Below is a recap of a few of the more pressing issues that were discussed.

Subsidy reductions

The Obama administration has proposed lowering the cap on farm subsidy payment limits from $500,000 to $250,000 – a move that received the ire of those who worked hard to produce the 2008 Farm Bill.

Economists estimate cutting payments from those with an adjusted gross income of more than $500,000 could eliminate payments to the average 800-acre row crop
operation in Ohio.

 “They’ve convinced everyone that we are all too big and too rich,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., told OFBF presidents. In a farm conference earlier that same week, he said the proposal is “a very stupid idea” that is “dead on arrival.”

AFBF and 37 other commodity groups sent a letter to the House and Senate Agriculture and Budget Committees opposing the proposed cuts. “The ink is barely dry on the new farm bill, and all of the provisions have not yet been fully implemented,” AFBF President Bob Stallman stated in the letter. “The bill must be fully implemented and allowed to work before changes are considered.”

‘Cow tax’

A proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule under the Clean Air Act would require any entity emitting more than 100 tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) per year to obtain a permit. This could include gases from natural processes on livestock farms in a scenario that has become known as a “cow tax.”

If EPA were to regulate GHGs under the act, AFBF calculated it could cost farmers and ranchers $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per beef cow and $21.87 per hog. Peterson, however, disagreed that such a rule would affect farms. “There is no cow tax…it never existed; it is fiction. We are not going to have a cow tax,” he said, basing his assertion on a letter he received from EPA saying it does not intend to regulate agriculture under the rule.

While Farm Bureau is appreciative of the chairman’s efforts, OFBF Senior Director of Legislative and Regulatory Policy Adam Sharp said it will take more than that to assure a cow tax isn’t levied on farmers.

 “A letter from the EPA saying agriculture is not a target means little in a court of law,” he said. “Only congressional action will fix this program, or mark my words, a court will say that this regulation will apply to agriculture at some point in the future. Until we see a statutory guarantee, we have major concerns with this proposed rule.”

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to prevent a “cow tax” on farmers and ranchers. Farm Bureau supports the bill.

Animal welfare

With animal rights groups targeting Ohio, there was much discussion on the issue in Washington.

Ohio Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Bob Latta both agreed to help agriculture in any way possible.

“Generation after generation of people today have never stepped foot on a farm. They have only seen it in a painting,” Latta said.

Jordan added, “It’s important at all levels for leaders to say there are things that we’re not afraid to defend – the values that made us special in the first place.”

Peterson said he thinks agriculture needs a better message to send to consumers. “Saying ‘we have the most abundant, safe food supply in the world’ isn’t working. We’re just talking to each other; and we’re going to have to refocus.”

Ohio Congressman and House Republican Leader John Boehner agreed. “Do not underestimate the power of these organizations to come in and change the rules,” he said. “The story of animal care must be told to people in a way they appreciate. The best defense is a good offense…and it’s time to be on offense.”

Economy

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, told OFBF leaders new realities are dictating that Americans work harder and smarter to do more with less. “We have an economy that relies on consumption. We have to get back to the values that are in this room,” he said. “If all of America had the values that are in this room, we would not be where we are at today.”

“Agriculture is one of the main pillars to helping create jobs and reviving the economy,” said Congressman Zack Space, D-Ohio.

 



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