After two days of soaking in issues briefings, forum discussions and learning opportunities in Washington, D.C., it was Ohio’s county Farm Bureau presidents’ turn to talk on Wednesday. In a display of grassroots in action, the local Farm Bureau leaders took their thoughts and concerns, and those of their peers back home, to the top of Capitol Hill.
The voice of Ohio Farm Bureau members was there in person, and in print, as presidents also hand-delivered each of their lawmakers a 50-page booklet of comments on proposed youth labor rules collected by the organization in February, and signed by county Farm Bureau presidents.
Ross County Farm Bureau President Mark Crosier, who was also taking in his first-ever trip to Washington, D.C., said the entire experience was “eye-opening” and “very refreshing.”
“It has been very enlightening to talk with Congressmen one-to-one, and to meet them in a non-political, more candid scene,” he said. “We can make our presence known, our concepts and ideals aware to the members of Congress, and I feel that they appreciate the fact we are here.”
Crosier said if he hadn’t become involved with Farm Bureau, he would have very little knowledge of wide array of issues affecting agriculture.
“It’s nice to know what’s going on,” he said, adding that he feels more confident that members of Congress are “aware of regular people back home in all the little towns and cities across the Unitied States, and are actually considered in some of the actions they take.”
Pat Brinkman from Fayette County is president of the Ohio Association of Extension Professionals. She participated in the trip to learn more about Farm Bureau and issues that might affect Extension, and she found out that there were.
“I wasn’t aware of an issue (proposed youth labor rules) that will involve 4-H,” she said, noting Extension’s youth program. “I will go back and talk to our administrator and make sure he’s aware of how it will bring concerns to 4-H. We could really be impacted, and I think it’s something we need to check out.”
Brinkman extended gratitude for Farm Bureau’s support. “We really appreciate (Farm Bureau) for speaking up and helping us (Extension) out in our situations.”
Senators Speak to Presidents
Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman also addressed county Farm Bureau presidents Wednesday.
Brown, the first Ohio senator in more than four decades to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, confirmed the notion that direct payments will be “as good as gone” in the “next generation” farm bill, which will be shaped by crop insurance covering deep losses.
He said Ohio agriculture has been a “bright spot in some dark times” in the state. He said there is “real opportunity for bio-based manufacturing” in the state, starting on farms, and that he is also working to create more opportunities for new and beginning farmers. When asked about the federal estate tax, Brown said he is not in favor of it being eliminated, but agrees it should have exemptions for farmers.
Portman shared his view on the need for increased trade, and said the recent passage of Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea was a “big deal for the United States after sitting on the sidelines for years.”
Portman also asked county Farm Bureau presidents their thoughts on the farm bill, and shared his thoughts on additional issues such as over-regulation, transportation issues, economic opportunities from increased oil and gas exploration in Ohio and proposed youth labor regulations.
Next year’s new relationships
On the heels of Super Tuesday election results, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President Jack Fisher closed the three-day trip with a challenge to the organization’s local leaders.
“There are big opportunities coming with new (redrawn) legislative districts,” he said. “Build, encourage, engage and nurture new relationships with your legislators for the coming year.”
Listen to the following audio interviews from Brownfield Ag News:
- Ohio Farm Bureau takes delegation to D.C.
- Estate and Capital Gains could take hit
- Ohio Farm Bureau delivers comments to Congress
- County Presidents meet with Congressman Gibbs
- Sen. Brown believes Farm Bill will be passed
Read county Farm Bureau presidents trip coverage from Farm and Dairy