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Farmers travel to Washington to take on regulation, spending
Buckeye Farm News
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's (OFBF) 64th annual county president’s trip to Washington, D.C. sent farmers to meet with national policymakers on behalf of their peers back home.
The county presidents had three days in the nation’s capital and a list of issues that included climate policy, trade, health care, food safety, deficits, tax reform and livestock care.
“It’s a barrage of information going both ways,” said Jack Jurin, president of the Washington County Farm Bureau. “To keep all of our members informed, to keep all of the Congress people informed of our needs and wants, yeah, it’s a big job.”
In various meetings, lawmakers repeatedly expressed irritation with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for its ballot initiative to upend the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
House Minority Leader John Boehner called the HSUS measure unwarranted and Sen. George Voinovich said HSUS uses its money to “hoodwink” the public because it can’t advance its agenda through state legislatures.
“We’re going to teach (HSUS) a lesson: stay out of Ohio,” he said.
Addressing federal policy, Voinovich said the nation was facing a fiscal crisis, and foreign policy could be affected by the fact that half of U.S. debt is owned by other countries.
“When somebody owns your debt, it has a way of influencing your decisions,” he said.
Voinovich drew applause when he said he wouldn’t support “any kind of economy-wide cap and trade legislation.” Farm Bureau believes such legislation will drive up food production costs and have no real impact on global carbon emissions if countries such as China don’t follow suit.
Regarding climate policy, Boehner warned that EPA may regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without a congressional vote.
“We need all right-thinking Americans to step up and say no to this new regulatory authority,” he told farmers.
Adam Sharp, OFBF senior director of national and regulatory policy, said although EPA’s proposal raises the regulatory threshold for greenhouse gas emissions, it will do little to protect farmers.
“That’ll buy you about a year or two while things play out in court,” he said.
Sharp said lower emissions thresholds established in law would take precedent and open up farmers to a “cow tax” for gases naturally produced by livestock.
Farmers encouraged their lawmakers to support a congressional resolution to stop the EPA regulation.
Voinovich also said tax reform was long overdue and Boehner seemed optimistic regarding efforts to improve federal estate tax policy.
“It might be one of the few areas where we can actually come to an agreement,” he said.
Joe Schultz, who works on agricultural policy for Sen. Sherrod Brown, also met with farmers and discussed trade, rural broadband and dairy policy. Shultz said the next farm bill would offer an opportunity to rethink how federal dairy policy is implemented.
Other lawmakers were critical of how the current political system operates, saying that spending was out of control. One proposal would require that lawmakers have time to actually read bills before a vote is taken; another would offer a constitutional amendment to limit federal spending to 20 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, barring an emergency such as war.
“People right now are very concerned about government,” acknowledged Rep. Steve Austria.
Farmers also were concerned about new food safety proposals, including a national marketing agreement for leafy greens. The program would essentially create a seal of approval for selling leafy greens and could put Ohio at a competitive disadvantage by failing to take into account the unique needs of the state’s growers.
“We strongly oppose it,” Sharp said. “It’s a marketing tool, not food safety.”
Farmers asked their representatives to sign onto a letter opposing the national agreement.
The county presidents also visited the British Embassy to discuss trade and climate policy and heard from U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on agency priorities and farm programs.
“All of this has an impact,” said Pickaway County Farm Bureau President Mark Ruff. “This is at the federal level, but it impacts Pickaway County, Ohio.”
Hear more about these issues and the trip to Washington on OFBF radio at www.townhallohio.org.