Hirsch: What we do at this meeting matters

In his annual address to the voting delegates at Ohio Farm Bureau’s 96th annual meeting, Ohio Farm Bureau President Steve Hirsch Hirsch emphasized the core purpose of the organization won’t change: to help farmers work together to help themselves, to be the single most effective voice for the agricultural community at the county, state and national level, and to ensure coming generations have the opportunity to continue that legacy.

Among member discussions regarding new member classifications, water quality concerns, and rising taxes, Hirsch said he has seen first hand the power of Farm Bureau and asked delegates to recall those times they have seen the organization at work. He related the first time he witnessed Farm Bureau in a powerful way–with the defeat of Issue 5 in 1992, known as the labeling law. He said he knew everything he and his family sold in their farm market in Ross County would have to be labeled and wondered how a law like this could be stopped.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I became a spokesperson against the issue, giving talks to local rotary and kiwanis clubs in Chillicothe and talking to our retail customers about the issue. And because hundreds of other farmers across the state were doing the same things, the initiative was defeated 78 to 22 percent,” he said.

“I’m sure you have similar stories. Something Farm Bureau accomplished locally, or at the state level or even at the national level that made farming just a little easier or a bit more profitable or your community a better place to live.

“I learned early in my career that a bunch of us working together gets more things done than if we’re working alone,” he said.

Hirsch said because of the work of volunteers, staff and supporters, Ohio Farm Bureau has an impressive list of accomplishments from this past year, including proactive approaches to addressing agriculture’s role in protecting water supplies.

“With Farm Bureau, we obtained programs that will protect the water while also preserving our ability to farm.”

He also praised Farm Bureau’s efforts in succeeding in keeping a larger portion of the severance tax in counties being impacted by the growth in the oil and gas industry, the organization’s protection of funding for agricultural and environmental science programs, the successful election of 95 percent of the candidates deemed a Friend of Farm Bureau or Friend of Agriculture, and the assistance given to members to help them understand and take advantage of the new farm bill.

Hirsch also acknowledged the concerns farmers have around Current Agricultural Use Value. He said 40 years after Farm Bureau conceived and created CAUV, it remains a powerful tool in keeping agriculture viable in Ohio but recognized the formula is causing hardship for some landowners today. However, Farm Bureau is obliged to take the long view.

“If we go too far with proposals to change a very good program, we risk losing it all. So as you go forward on this issue during the business session, I encourage you to consider carefully not only what’s to be gained in the short term but what could be lost in the long term.”

He concluded by thanking the delegates and reminding them “What we do at this meeting matters.

“I mentioned earlier that 95 percent of the candidates we designated as friends won their elections.

That’s not dumb luck. “In Farm Bureau we take government and governing seriously. And we take running our organization just as seriously. We don’t just throw together knee-jerk reactions. We create thoughtful policies.”

Hirsch said he is confident that at the end of the meeting, “We’ll mark our place in the 96 year history of Farm Bureau, and we’ll be among the delegates who for nearly 100 years have believed in this organization and its ability to affect positive change.”

Callie Wells 

Callie Wells is the director of digital communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.