For the 92nd year, Ohio Farm Bureau members from across the state are convening to determine the stance and direction the state’s largest farm organization will take in the coming year.
The organization’s annual meeting commenced on Wednesday, with more than 340 delegates representing the views of their fellow members in their home counties, ready to start discussing, debating and establishing the Ohio Farm Bureau’s policies at the state level Thursday.
They will continue their way through the organization’s 210-page book of codes and policies until a final consensus is reached on Friday afternoon.
Gee praises farmers
The meeting started Wednesday with a crowd-pleasing address at the annual Ag Luncheon from Ohio State University President E Gordon Gee, who praised Ohio farmers and the agriculture industry, saying that “the great tradition of the Land Grant University is more important now than at the time of Lincoln.”
He said agriculture needs to play an integral role in the recovery of Ohio’s economy, and that the $100 billion industry is still the most important business in the state.
“You hold the future of the state, and in many ways the nation, in your hands,” Gee told farmers.
An update on Livestock Care
Boggs said an agreement reached between Ohio agriculture groups, Gov. Ted Strickland and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) this summer took pressure off the 13-member board to rush standards into place.
“It took away the anger and emotion, and allowed us to seriously and thoroughly discuss livestock care in the state,” Boggs said. He said that while progress thus far has been relatively slow, it has been because the board is doing a thorough job and involving the people of Ohio in the process. The board has passed standards on euthanasia and civil penalties for violations. Both have to go through the formal JCARR rulemaking process. Boggs said he expects final action on these standards in January.
Boggs said the board will set standards, and it will be up to the Ohio Department of Agriculture to follow through on compliance. “The goal is to work to bring people into compliance in the case of the first offense, not to throw the hammer down,” he noted.
In regards to HSUS, Boggs said it has been reasonable in the dealings with the board, adding that he thinks it is more likely that the organization would should show more immediate concern over the non-farm portions of the summer’s agreement before turning more attention to livestock issues.
Boggs was also presented a plaque on behalf of Ohio’s farmers for his years of service to the Ohio agriculture community as director of ODA.
Telling your farm story through social media
Ohio Farm Bureau Communications Specialist Dan Toland stressed the need for farmers to step out of their comfort zone and tell their own stories when discussing the impact social media has had on agriculture.
Together with AgChat Foundation President and California rancher Jeff Fowle via Skype video chat, Toland highlighted and shared how a growing population of tweeting, blogging, Facebooking and YouTube-ing farmers have started to level once lopsided information posted online by activist organizations.
“Chicken Little arguments from both sides of contentious issues aren’t getting us anywhere,” said Toland. “We need to take the time to listen to concerns from those who don’t farm and engage in productive conversation.”
“HSUS and other activist organizations have been running campaigns online for years with little problem from farmers, but over the past couple years social media has helped change this and provide a strong voice for the farmer,” he said.
Fowle described how the AgChat Foundation has grown from an idea of seven farmers in 2009, to an increasingly savvy group of skilled “agvocates” educating farmers in how to use social media and coordinating strategic campaigns to increase trust and awareness.
Fisher challenges farmers
Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher also challenged Ohio farmers to get more comfortable having conversations with nonfarmers in his annual address on Thursday.
“Everyone is weighing in on your business,” Fisher told farmers. “You are under the spotlight. And where there’s light, there is heat. Farm Bureau’s job is to make sure agriculture doesn’t get burned.”
“Farmers want to be viewed favorably,” he said, but that they rarely want attention. “Guess what? The attention is there, whether you want it or not. You can fight it, avoid it or embrace it. But you should try listening.”
He said the national food conversation needs balance and it needs to come directly from farmers.
“We (Farm Bureau) can organize the conversation. That part is easy. The hard part is getting your buy-in, to welcome the spotlight and be comfortable telling about what you do.”
Fisher also recapped the year’s highlights and recognized outstanding county programs, including those in Fairfield and Fulton counties for receiving American Farm Bureau Federation‘s County Activities of Excellence Award. The two counties will be showcased at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Atlanta in January.
More from Wednesday:
- American Farm Bureau’s Mary Kay Thatcher provided an update on the progress of the 2012 Farm Bill.
- Ohio State Fair Auctioneer Johnny Regula auctioned off items in the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Rural-Urban Community Auction. More than $8,500 was raised through the auction to benefit grants, scholarships and community outreach program through the Foundation.
Harvest Banquet Thursday
The annual Harvest Banquet will be held Thursday evening where Ohio Farm Bureau will recognize membership and county Farm Bureau achievements, announce and recognize winners in the Young Agricultural Professionals Discussion Meet, Excellence in Agriculture Award and Outstanding Young Farmer Awards, as well present its Distinguished Service Awards to those who have significantly contributed to the agriculture community in Ohio.
In addition to continued policy development, elections will be held for open state board of trustees.
- Get updates and view a complete photo album from the annual meeting on Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s Facebook Page