Impressive Results at the Statehouse
“Powerful” is a fitting description of Ohio Farm Bureau’s legislative successes in 2011. In a time when many advocacy organizations are fighting to remain relevant, farmers are working together through Farm Bureau to achieve impressive results at the Statehouse.These are the dividends of engaging government in the Farm Bureau way. Years of relationship building, civil communication and grassroots cooperation resulted in a remarkable string of accomplishments.
Here’s a look at how Farm Bureau 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 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. 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, new legislation 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 producers through the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, which helps assure safe, affordable food for consumers.
Maintained water-use rights. Legislation governing the Great Lakes Compact will promote water quality and maintain farmers’ property rights by ensuring water used for food or fiber production and products is in the public interest and is considered a reasonable use.
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.
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.
Promoted agriculture’s importance. The second full week in March will be designated Ohio Agriculture Week to honor the state’s agriculture community.
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. Congratulations to all of you who contributed to this great list of accomplishments!