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Life Beyond the Beltway

So you’ve got a little less than an acre, or two or five with an easy drive to the city. There’s a nice plot for a garden, a lawn tractor in the shed, stars and crickets.

But living on a small rural plot, or even in the suburbs, you face different issues than those residents more accustomed to city lights. Farm Bureau knows you don’t need to have hundreds of acres to be concerned about issues such as property rights, rural crime, good government and taxes. If you don’t make your living on the farm, you might be surprised to find that Farm Bureau is working in a number of areas that could impact you.

For example, at the organization’s most recent annual meeting, Farm Bureau delegates said that, despite a new law, scrap metal theft continues to be a problem in rural areas. In response, the organization is working with law enforcement and the scrap industry to see if there are additional remedies for Ohio. Farm Bureau’s efforts are complemented by a longstanding program that offers a $2,500 reward to individuals who report crimes on Farm Bureau members’ properties.

Farm Bureau also has submitted a brief to the Ohio Supreme Court on a case that could limit how voters in townships can use zoning to manage growth. Farm Bureau felt local residents should have some input on whether the field next door could one day become a racetrack or a mini-mall. Farm Bureau was also involved last November in the passage of State Issue 2, which helped preserve farmland and green space while revitalizing urban brownfields.

During a recent trip to Columbus, several Farm Bureau members met with their legislators about local issues, such as more efficiently funding repairs to county roads and bridges. Gov. Ted Strickland also spoke to members about his budget and education plan. A priority of Farm Bureau is restoring funding that was cut from Ohio State University Extension, which offers numerous resources on topics including gardening, nature and land management and also administers the 4-H program. As lawmakers rethink school funding, Farm Bureau is guarding against unfair taxation of property owners.

Then there is Ohio’s new fence law, which spells out an equitable way to pay for the upkeep of fences that divide township properties. It was based on the recommendations of a Farm Bureau task force. The old law often led to disputes and could have left residents legally obligated to pay for a fence for which they had no use.

Whether it’s ensuring that landowners have the right to use their groundwater or reforming Ohio’s eminent domain laws, one of Farm Bureau’s organizational goals is protecting personal property rights. Among many other issues, Farm Bureau also is working to expand access to broadband Internet service and to set reasonable limits on wildlife populations, namely the state’s overgrown deer herd.

In fact, Farm Bureau has an extensive policy book, which is revised annually by members, that gives the organization marching orders on everything from environmental protection and food safety to natural resources and election law.

You may ask why the state’s largest- farm organization puts its resources into so many “nonfarm” issues. The answer is simple: Farm families are just as concerned about the quality of life in Ohio as your family. Through the support of its members, Farm Bureau is working to make the pleasures of living off the land, even the most modest parcel, more bountiful for everyone.