WASHINGTON (OFBF) – It happens every year about this time. American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Pat Wolff calls it “Farm Bureau season.”
Wolff is referring to the annual late winter and early spring migration of more than 4,000 Farm Bureau members from across the country who will travel up Capitol Hill to bring the voice of the local farmer to their lawmakers. It’s part of the grassroots process of Farm Bureau that makes it a successful organization.
And on National Agriculture Day Tuesday, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) county presidents prepped for the Wednesday meetings they will have with their Congressional delegation in the nation’s capitol.
Common Ag Issues
Throughout the day, common issues were discussed and opinions were shared.
For the 21st year, Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents were treated to a forum on agriculture issues hosted by Speaker of the House John Boehner and attended by House Agriculture committee chair Frank Lucas (R-OK), and a host of Ohio representatives.
Below is a sampling of what lawmakers and other speakers throughout the day had to say about various common issues:
Rep. Bob Gibbs, the first past president of a state Farm Bureau to be elected to Congress, has made it a priority to cut spending. “If we continue on our current path…debt will go through the roof and interest will be the big expenditure,” he said.
Boehner said Congress will “not shy away” when it came to cutting spending. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road,” he said.
“The estate tax (is a burden which) keeps families from transferring the farm from one generation to the next,” said Rep. Steve Stivers. Reps Jim Renacci and Bill Johnson also expressed strong support for eliminating the estate tax.
Last month, Ohio farmer rallied at the Ohio Statehouse to urge state lawmakers to repeal the Estate Tax. Read about the rally and how to easily tell your lawmaker to take action on the Estate Tax today.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, joined the volunteer leaders for breakfast, where he revealed his ‘Grown in Ohio’ Listening Tour throughout the Buckeye State that he is planning in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill (click the link to see details).
Others who spoke of the farm bill said there will be challenges in writing it. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas cited the large number of first-year Congressmen as an opportunity to take a year to review and dissect the farm bill, its titles and provisions. He then expects a more thorough writing of the new bill in 2012.
Regulations by Federal Agencies
For the most part, House members throughout the day expressed a desire to shrink regulations from government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agencey (EPA).
“EPA is totally out of control,” Boehner said, adding that both sides of the aisle in the House Agriculture Committee are questioning the rule-making authority of the agency.
“I want to make sure we do everything we can to mitigate Mother nature, and so we don’t have regulations creating problems like my grandparents had in the 1930s and I went through in the 1980s,” added House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas.
Sen. Brown stated he would like to see stronger regulations in some areas, citing Grand Lake St Marys water quality issues as an example.
AFBF’s Rosemarie Watkins shared the current international trade situation, and expressed the need for the United States to expand and approve international trade agreements.
“The United States used to be the bread breadbasket of the world, but there are now other countries starting to produce more food and moving into markets traditionally dominated by the U.S.,” she said, adding that agriculture is the only U.S. sector with a trade surplus.
Also during the afternoon session, Rep. Marcia Fudge shared he concern for lack of nutritious food and hungry children in key sections of her northeast Ohio district, while also sharing that she has “a lot to learn” about Ohio agriculture. In response, OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher extended an offer to Fudge to visit some farms across the state, and in turn requested to visit her district to learn more about the issues she faces.
Up the Hill they’ll go
All the county Farm Bureau presidents’ preparation will be put to work on Wednesday as they work their way up Capitol Hill for pre-scheduled meeting with their lawmakers.
According to OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher, it’s the reason they are in Washington this week. “This is why you belong to Farm Bureau,” he said. “It is critically important that members of Congress hear from you off the farm.”
Fisher also emphasized building relationships with lawmakers, whether or not they always see eye to eye with Farm Bureau policy established by members. “They are in position to work on your behalf,” he said. “This is an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships.”
AFBF’s Pat Wolff summed up the reason in a statement to county presidents Tuesday morning.
“I’m here to deliver your message, but I can’t make lawmakers care about your issues like you can.”
Follow the OFBF Presidents Trip to Washington, D.C. via the following online outlets:
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OFBF.org: Check back at OFBF.org throughout the week for more updates.