Buckeye Farm News
Three hundred and forty six delegates represented their county Farm Bureaus and voted on policies that will shape the direction of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) in 2010 at the organization’s 91st annual meeting in Cincinnati this month.
High priorities set during the meeting included animal care, climate change, wildlife damage, Extension funding and challenges to dairy farmers.
“Clearly, many consumers are very removed from what livestock farmers do,” said Ohio Farm Bureau President Brent Porteus, who was re-elected to his second year at the helm of the organization during the meeting. “We have to connect better with the public and help them understand the realities of what it takes to produce safe, affordable food.”
Ohio Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert said the enthusiasm of the delegates about animal care issues could certainly be felt, but that they also understand they will have to do much more in the future. Delegates said they believe that a state-by-state approach to animal care is not in the best interests of farmers and consumers. As such, they adopted a resolution to encourage the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) to take leadership and respond to the issue on a national level.
Delegates were “very skeptical” about the rush to create legislation dealing with climate change, according to Stimpert, but also realized the need to include improved principles for a better environment. The delegate body adopted policy that recognizes the need to protect the environment, seeks clarity of the global warming question and considers the economic consequences that legislation would have for farmers and all Ohioans.
“They’re worried that political forces have taken over what should be decided by science,” Stimpert said, noting that the delegates said the views of all stakeholders should be considered and that any legislation should guard against higher fertilizer and fuel costs.
Concern over wildlife damage, particularly from Ohio’s exploding deer population, made its annual appearance on the policy agenda. “Whether it’s danger to cars and drivers, residential landscaping or crop damage, we need to find a solution,” Porteus said. Delegates explored how to frame the issue as a question of property rights. Crops, fruit trees and other farm products are personal property, which farmers believe they have the right to protect.
Adequate funding for Ohio State Extension and its county operations was another policy topic. Delegates instructed their organization to work toward creative solutions to Extension funding challenges. “Extension affects farmers and consumers locally, as well as youth and the 4-H program,” Stimpert said. As part of the resolution, OFBF is to reach out to those who have an impact on the program and control of funding, including the Board of Regents.
OFBF delegates called for AFBF to work with all national dairy interests to resolve the economic difficulties that regularly plague the dairy industry. OFBF members seek comprehensive, long-term policies that are good for milk producers and consumers.
Delegates also addressed the debate over national health policy, adopting a resolution opposing the so-called public option.
Farmers have the final say
OFBF Senior Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert said it is important to recognize that the policies set forth by the organization are carefully developed researched and voted on by the members of the organization, not as a top-down directive from organizational leadership.
“They (delegates) take this work very, very seriously,” Stimpert said. “These folks committed a lot of study hours to getting positions that are right for farmers, consumers, Ohioans and the nation as a whole,” he said.
OFBF President Brent Porteus, addressing the erroneous but frequently used description of Farm Bureau as being a representative of corporate agriculture, said, “I wish anyone who believes that would come to our annual meeting and meet our delegates and members. you’d only need to brush shoulders wit them for a little while to realize the cross-section of Ohio agriculture they represent. From the very small farmers to the bigger operators, they were all in the same room together setting the policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau.”