Water quality, taxation and energy development topped the policy issues addressed during the 94th annual meeting of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) held Nov. 28-30 in Columbus. A highlight of the event was a speech from Gov. John Kasich, who then took questions from the delegates.
During the policy session, delegates addressed the challenges of keeping farm nutrients out of the state’s waters by endorsing farmers’ adoption of a management system referred to as 4R, which encourages nutrient applications that are the right source, right rate, right time and right place. Farm Bureau members said they believe all farmers should have nutrient management plans, and the organization encouraged ongoing research into ways to farm profitably without harming water supplies.
Delegates also addressed the need to preserve the state’s Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program, which taxes farmland at its farm value as opposed to its highest potential value, and is essential to maintaining viable farming in Ohio. Farm Bureau believes that farmland enrolled in federal conservation programs should remain qualified for CAUV.
Policy on how the state should tax oil and gas development was heavily debated, with the priority being the protection of landowner rights. Farm Bureau voted to oppose an increase in the severance tax solely for the purpose of funding a state income tax reduction. If there is an increase in the severance tax, it should address local government funding, infrastructure needs, local and state economic development and mitigation of negative impacts on local communities and the environment. Farm Bureau believes any severance tax discussion should be part of a comprehensive reform of state and local taxes. OFBF members also established policy that says regulatory costs associated with energy development should be funded by permits and the severance tax.In related policy, the organization’s delegates voted to support rural economic development centered on energy industries including generation and distribution as long as they are responsive to community and landowner needs.
Farm Bureau members also addressed ways to assure that farmers can meet the growing consumer demand for agricultural experiences such as farm markets and agritainment venues. Farmers need certainty in what regulations will be and how to comply to provide visitors with safe, enjoyable activities.The organization retained its policy that opposes privatization of the Ohio Turnpike.Delegates took a broad approach to the topic of agricultural education. A priority is assuring adequate funding for agricultural education in schools and for OSU Extension. Delegates support science, technology, engineering and math education that relates to agriculture.
The Farm Bureau policy process begins locally with members discussing challenges and opportunities facing their communities. These discussions are acted on by county Farm Bureaus, which in turn forward the issues for consideration at the state annual meeting. There were 341 voting delegates at this year’s meeting; all were elected at the county level.