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Up for Discussion

Published Jul. 22, 2013 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

Ohio Farm Bureau’s grassroots policy development process gives all active members an equal say in directing the organization.  No  matter the size of your farm or what you produce, you get to vote on your county Farm Bureau’s policies as well as who should represent you in state policy discussions. While you’re encouraged to bring up any issues important to you, here are a few current policy issues for you to consider. 

Find out more about how you can get involved in the county Farm Bureau policy development process by contacting your county Farm Bureau.

Community Councils: To assist your discussions, more background is available on these and other current issues.

Renewable Fuels Standard

The Renewable Fuels Standard  was created by Congress in 2005 and greatly expanded in 2007 as what is known now as the RFS2. The RFS2 set targets and timetables for biofuels to be added into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. Since almost the day the bill was passed, gasoline consumption has decreased. We now consume the same amount of gasoline as in 2003, and use is projected to continue falling over the next few years. U.S. gasoline consumption determines what is often referred to as the “ethanol blend wall.”

Consequently, the gap between a 10 percent ethanol blend and the amount that is mandated by the RFS2 is expected to continue to grow because projections of gasoline consumption are decreasing and the mandate is increasing.

One way to eliminate the “ethanol blend wall” is to increase the percentage of ethanol blended into gasoline. The  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued provisions allowing for the blending of up to 15 percent ethanol in gasoline, but only for vehicles produced after model year 2000.

To date, there has been very little pick-up of this product because gasoline stations are unwilling to put in pumps for this restricted market. Several organizations are working through the courts to stop EPA from allowing for a 15 percent blend. Many in the liquid fuels industry, and certainly those in the gasoline distribution sector, are pushing for legislative changes to the mandate or even complete repeal.

The issue is expected to come to a head in 2014 as we get closer to hitting the “blend wall” and will be debated heavily in 2013.

Questions

1.    With keeping the integrity of the RFS2 as an AFBF priority issue for 2013, what alternatives or actions should Farm Bureau support as this issue takes center stage?

2.    What are the impacts on farmers, ranchers and stakeholders of renewable fuels if the RFS2 is changed or modified to avoid the blend wall?

3.    If the RFS2 were or must be changed to avoid the blend wall, what should these changes entail?

Raw Milk

After much debate, a large majority of delegates to the 2013 AFBF Annual Meeting approved new policy language in support of only pasteurized milk and milk products being sold or distributed for human consumption. Most of the discussion in favor of the policy addition centered on the potential risks to public health posed by consumption of raw milk.

Six states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont) subsequently dissented from AFBF policy. States currently have the authority to govern the sale of raw milk inside their boundaries and some states do allow in-state sales of raw milk.

Because AFBF policy is focused on issues at the national level, intrastate regulation is not affected. Raw milk is not currently the subject of any proposed national legislative or regulatory action. 

Questions

1.    Should state programs that inspect and provide for the sale of raw milk and milk products within the state, and clearly labeled with acknowledged food safety risks, be addressed in and allowed by AFBF policy?

2.    Federal provisions allow for the interstate sale of cheese produced through adequate aging or other processes that kill food-borne contaminants. Since cheese conforming to these standards has not been a food safety risk, should AFBF policy formally recognize the safety of these products just as the federal government does?

3.    Should AFBF policy language that specifically opposes raw milk sales for human consumption be further clarified to stipulate that it only applies to national and interstate sales of milk and milk products?

4.    Recognizing that both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider pasteurization necessary for food safety reasons, should the current language be retained?

CAUV

Since 2005, Ohio landowners enrolled in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program have seen their property values and resulting property taxes increase. CAUV values are based upon an objective calculation which uses an income approach to value land for its agricultural use only. Values have increased due to higher crop prices and lower interest rates, but continue to provide an average 67 percent reduction from fair market value.

In 2005, CAUV values reached their all time low with an average statewide value of $120/acre. However, even as the general economy began to suffer, the farm economy began to prosper – returning record yields, receipts and farm incomes. In turn, CAUV values also began to increase. Increases, even of relatively small dollar amounts, were large percentage-wise because values had been so low in the mid-2000s.

The income approach used for CAUV ensures that only agriculture is considered when the property is valued, instead of the typical “highest and best use” standard. The income approach also does not consider the fair market value, or the price at which the property would change hands, which can also be strongly influenced by development pressure and demand.

The calculation uses yield, price and cost data from corn, soybeans and wheat and is performed for each of the 3,500 individual soil types in Ohio.

Questions

1.    A suggestion is often made to include livestock in the CAUV calculation.

•    How can livestock be included in the calculation?

•    What species of livestock should be included?

•    Since stocking rates for livestock can vary so widely (one cow per acre vs. 100 steers on one acre feedlot), how would you build a formula that accounts for this variation?

•    Is there another way to give livestock (or other commodities) individual consideration without changing the formula itself?

2.    Should there be individual consideration by operation type afforded to landowners? Examples could include: certain additions/deductions made to calculated values based on type of operation or commodities produced using market data; or additions/deductions for certain land hazards. How would that individual consideration be administered? By the auditor? A governmental board/committee? How will such an increase in auditor discretion, or bureaucracy, affect the CAUV program and its integrity?

3.    Does the addition of other commodities, individual auditor discretion or bureaucracy hurt the transparency and accessibility of the calculation by making it more complicated?

4.    While values have increased, they still represent significant savings afforded only to agricultural land, how does this affect local funding for governmental services, schools, etc.?

5.    Is revising CAUV the best answer, or are there other ways to introduce savings to offset some property tax increases?



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