Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s (OFBF) recent success in shaping the affairs of our state can be seen for what it is: The dividends of engaging government in the Farm Bureau way – years of relationship building, civil communication and grassroots cooperation resulting in a remarkable string of accomplishments.
But it also proves a core belief of our organization that “people have within their own hands the tools and the power to shape their own social and economic destinies if they will only organize themselves to use them.”
Looking beyond our achievements as they stand today, we see that we can define our reality into the future. This will happen with a commitment to shed light on all sides of the issues through a grassroots and democratic process, to listen to all voices and to bring about a common good.
Our continued ability to put ideas into action speaks to a better future in a new era of cooperation. To shape that future is the privilege of every Farm Bureau member. With this approach, there is little doubt in what we can achieve. As a community of farmers, neighbors and citizens, we must continue to look within ourselves and across our fence lines and ask of each other “What is the better way forward?” Working together, we will grow together.
Here’s a look at how Ohio Farm Bureau recently put its members’ policies into action:
Eliminated the state estate tax. The state death tax is dead. For more than 25 years farmers have explained the unfairness of this tax that was an impediment to passing the farm on to the next generation. The Ohio estate tax is gone, effective Jan. 1, 2013.
Preserved agriculture’s budget priorities. Faced with an $8 billion budget deficit, Gov. John Kasich and lawmakers had to prioritize how to invest limited dollars. Thanks to Farm Bureau’s encouragement, agriculture remained a priority in Ohio’s budget. Compared to FY 2011, funding for OARDC/Extension is at 99 percent; SWCD funding is 100 percent; executive funding levels for ODA programs were reduced only 8.8 percent, a level deemed manageable by ODA administrators; and funding of the Fifth Quarter agriculture education program was at 100 percent. The budget also phases in the remaining 4.2 percent reduction in personal income tax rates.
Expanded the agricultural sales tax exemption. Fish and equine now qualify for the exemption and captive cervidae (deer) are added to the livestock structure provision.
Enhanced assistance for Grand Lake St. Marys. $2 million has been allocated for mitigation and restoration.
Maintained equipment auctions. A new law that would have eliminated most auction options for tractors, farm and other large trucks and construction equipment was corrected.
Strengthened local government. Townships now have voluntary options to merge or consolidate without needing to form villages or municipalities.
Protected livestock farmers. To counteract recent court rulings, H.B. 22 ensures that Ohio livestock farmers will no longer face criminal charges if animals escape their enclosure through no fault of the owner.
Ensured predictable regulations. Clarified provisions that allow the Ohio Department of Agriculture to maintain a consistent regulatory climate for livestock farmers through the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, which helps protect food for consumers.
Enacted key transportation initiatives. The state transportation budget eliminated the late registration fee on seasonal and farm vehicles. The definition of farm commodities was expanded to include manure, turf, sod, silage and forest products, and they will receive a 5 percent weight variance. Farm Bureau also worked to ensure that new private-public partnerships will protect private property rights.
Expanded marketing opportunities. As a result of the recommendation of a Farm Bureau member committee, OFBF staff has started working with ODA to explore establishing farmers markets at three Ohio highway rest areas.
Promoted agriculture’s importance. The second full week in March will be designated Ohio Agriculture Week to honor the state’s agriculture community.
Stopped burdensome motor carrier rules. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rescinded burdensome new rules for vehicles with a weight rating of 10,001 pounds to 26,000 pounds as Farm Bureau and a coalition of interested parties voiced opposition and encouraged additional consideration.
Supported more efficient government. Performance auditing is now required for most state agencies and is expected to reduce waste and eliminate inefficiency in many state programs. This is in line with key Farm Bureau policy provisions.