Work for farmers continues on many fronts

Buckeye Farm News

  Following are just some of the highlights from  OFBF’s current public policy work and a look at other areas where the organizaton is engaged.

Federal Issues and LegislationFarm Bill – Congress has been holding hearings regarding the 2012 Farm Bill.  American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is seeking policies for consideration at its January annual meeting. OFBF is engaging with Midwestern state Farm Bureaus, university specialists and AFBF in an effort to develop a regionally supported set of farm policy recommendations.  OFBF will hold several farm bill discussion sessions in September with our members focusing on farm support programs, dairy policy and conservation.

Death Taxes – With the current federal death tax exemption expiring at the end of the year, AFBF and OFBF launched a summer-long campaign encouraging members to sign postcards that state “Put Death Taxes to Rest.”  These cards will be delivered to Congress this fall.  

Climate Change – OFBF and other Ohio farm groups recently sent a letter to Congress stating opposition to current climate change measures and warning that Congress must be careful not to act simply for the sake of acting.  

Food Safety – OFBF participated in an Ohio farm tour that educated staff of the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on farm food safety and production.  OFBF staff also have met with FDA staff in Washington regarding FDA’s proposed rule regarding on-farm produce production practices.  OFBF filed joint comments on the measure with the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association and others. OFBF met with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator regarding our concerns with the Department’s proposed National Leafy Green Marketing Agreement.  OFBF has also been working with Sen. Sherrod Brown regarding pending federal food safety legislation (S. 510).  Neither OFBF nor AFBF has an official position on this bill to date, and we continue to work to improve the bill for agriculture.  

State Issues and LegislationAg Linked Deposit – HB 483/SB 250 would expand the funds available in Ohio’s agricultural linked deposit program from $125 million to $200 million and increase individual loan availability from $100,000 to $150,000.  OFBF strongly supports the bill.

Animal Cruelty – HB 55 proposes an increase in penalties for repeat offenses of animal cruelty against livestock from a second to first degree misdemeanor.  OFBF is monitoring this bill.

Dog Breeding – SB 95 proposes stringent regulations on Ohio’s dog breeders, particularly those deemed as “high volume.”   OFBF is working to ensure that all voices are heard on this measure and that accepted animal husbandry practices are protected.

Animals at Large – HB 503 aligns with policy adopted by OFBF delegates at the 2009 Annual Meeting and ensures that non-negligent livestock owners whose animals escape confinement through no fault of the owner are not charged under criminal liability provisions.  The legislation will codify the longstanding practice that has recently been challenged by several local court decisions.  OFBF supports this bill.Immigration  SB 35, SB 150, and SB 238 propose various changes to Ohio’s immigration laws and may impact employers. OFBF provided background information to lawmakers on potential unintended consequences of enacting state-by-state immigration policies and urged lawmakers to encourage federal solutions to immigration problems.

State Budget – The OFBF State Budget Task Force met for the first time on June 3rd.  Discussion included an in-depth review of the state budget process, a frank look at the challenges in budget negotiations, the impact of the budget on OSU/Extension/4-H, the impact of the budget on rural hospitals and a thorough look at federal health care reform, its impact on Ohio employers and employees, and how it will affect state budgeting.  The task force will produce a report for the board in late August.

Public Utility Regulations – SB 162 revises the state regulation of telephone companies, removes telegraph companies from utility regulation, and revises the law concerning confidential information of public utilities.  Failure to upgrade these laws could hinder new investment in our state including broadband deployment.  The bill has passed both the House and Senate and was signed by the governor. OFBF supported this bill.

Transfer of Development Rights – HB 471 allows local governments to establish transfer of development rights programs.  OFBF is monitoring this bill.

On-farm Energy Production – HB 485 would include the production from certain feedstocks of biodiesel, biomass energy, electric or heat energy and biologically derived methane gas in the definition of “agriculture” for purposes of laws governing county zoning, township zoning and current agricultural use valuation.  This change would facilitate on-farm energy production using agricultural byproducts such as methane captured from manure. OFBF supports this legislation.

Farm Vehicle Registration Late Fee – HB 528 exempts farm trucks and farm buses from the vehicle registration late fee, establishes a mandatory waiver of the registration late fee for vehicles used on a seasonal basis and would allow the director of public safety to approve a course in remedial driving instruction that is conducted entirely by video teleconferencing or the Internet under specified circumstances. OFBF supports this legislation.

Hunting Near Parks – HB 531 eliminates the prohibition against hunting or shooting game within one-half mile of a township park.  This legislation repeals a section in the Ohio Revised Code that doesn’t appear to have any relevance to hunting safety or the enhancement of nuisance wildlife and overabundance of wildlife controls, and it drastically infringes on the rights of adjacent landowners. OFBF is monitoring this legislation.

Agricultural Deer Licenses – HB 410 proposes to establish an agricultural deer propagating license, an agricultural deer hunting preserve license and corresponding requirements under the authority of the director of agriculture.  This legislation is supported by the Whitetail Deer Farmers of Ohio, Inc. but is opposed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Agriculture and various Ohio sportsmen’s groups. OFBF is monitoring the legislation. 

Wind Energy – SB 232 will replace current utility tax rates with payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) assessments.  The focus is to ensure resources for local government and schools, while putting Ohio’s tax structure for renewable energy facilities in a competitive position relative to neighboring states. OFBF provided testimony as a supportive interested party.

Rural Broadband – Ohio Farm Bureau continues to work with both Connected Nation and Connect Ohio on greater broadband affordability and availability.  Ohio is recognized as a leader in broadband mapping and public/private partnership deployment programs.  

Hunter Access Pilot Program – This program, which sought to connect farmers and hunters to reduce deer damage, was evaluated by OFBF and ODNR and an expanded program is expected to be launched this fall. 

International Container Shipping – As a result of ongoing discussions amongst interested parties, including OFBF, the Ohio Department of Transportation announced it will file a new rule to permit overweight international shipping containers be transported on Ohio roadways.   This is a great breakthrough and will put Ohio in a much more competitive position for exporting Ohio grain via shipping containers.

Nutrient Management – Nutrient management and water quality related to agriculture is coming to a head on several fronts in Ohio.  The Ohio Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force released its report suggesting that currently acceptable agricultural management practices may be the cause of excess dissolved phosphorus loading to Lake Erie.  Grand Lake St. Marys continues to be an issue of local and statewide concern.

Ohio Great Lakes Compact – Efforts continue for the Ohio Great Lakes Compact Advisory Board to complete its work and provide its recommendations to the governor and General Assembly.  While many details are yet to be worked out regarding the regulation of new or increased withdrawals, advisory board members have reached a consensus on several general principles.

Power Siting Board – OFBF was recognized as an official, intervening party of record with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) in seven cases concerning approval of new wind farm construction projects in northwest and north central Ohio. OFBF continues to work with county Farm Bureau leaders to address local policy concerns and prepare for public hearings.

Solid Biofuels – OFBF is helping several county Farm Bureaus in eastern Ohio form a task force to identify/recruit a solid biofuel processing company to establish operations in the region.  OFBF is working with the Ohio Department of Development and other government agencies to arrange farmer-processor discussion sessions in northwest, northeast and southwest Ohio.

Nuclear Energy – OFBF is working with a stakeholder group formed by Duke Energy to evaluate intermediate and long-term energy requirements for southern Ohio consumers, and the possibility of developing nuclear generation capacity in the region.

Utility Tariff Issues – A number of farmers in certain service areas are discovering that as they refit their farm facilities to become more energy efficient, they are tripping electric usage thresholds that bring demand meters and higher rate structures to the farm.  OFBF is conducting legal research on tariffs and working with the incumbent utilities to implement better information programs advising farmers on the issue.

Pollution Abatement – OFBF staff met with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to review its proposed changes to agriculture pollution abatement rules. ODNR-DSWC will soon begin its required five-year review of agriculture pollution abatement rules.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Facilities – The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Facilities advisory committee, which includes Ohio Farm Bureau, announced that it would be conducting a required five-year rule review.  

Dairy Labeling – The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s dairy labeling rule is now being heard by a federal appellate court, and both plaintiffs and defendants appeared before the court to make their oral arguments in early June. Ohio Farm Bureau and Ohio Dairy Producers Association each filed amicus briefs on the subject(s). The court is expected to render a decision in mid fall.

Ag Law Coalition – Ohio Farm Bureau attorneys have assisted agricultural attorneys around Ohio with the goal of establishing a good body of case law on agricultural issues and avoiding outcomes which would set bad precedent for agricultural law.

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