The squeaky wheel gets the grease

The fifth session of the AgriPOWER Class VI was held in Toledo Jan. 22-23. The focus of the session was on local government functions as well as agricultural issues in northern Ohio.

The session opened with an in depth discussion of the CAUV (Current Agricultural Use Valuation) program, and how to better understand it. Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Agricultural Law Leah Curtis led the discussion and pointed out that the program, which is well intentioned, has some drawbacks including the lag-time between the commodity prices used to calculate the valuation and the actual implementation of those numbers. Curtis pointed out that OFBF is working with government on all levels to address farmer concerns with the program. Aside from all the concerns with the CAUV program it is clear that the program is a substantial benefit for Ohio farmers.

Next, we had the opportunity to hear from several county and municipal leaders from Wood and Lucas counties. It was interesting to see the similarities and stark differences between a rural county and an urban county. Although the roles of each county are the same, the approach taken by each county, and the emphasis placed on different areas of government, were vastly different. I learned many new things but the most important point that I gleaned from all of the speakers was that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Government leaders pay the most attention to the issues that are presented to them the most. They cannot know what our concerns and needs are if we don’t communicate with them. We should all take the time to get to know our local leaders. By forming these relationships we can help local leaders address the issues important to agriculture and to our families.

A discussion also was held on the Lake Erie and Maumee River Watershed issues. Since the water safety scare in Toledo last August, many groups have joined forces to try and resolve the water quality issues. Although many organizations have joined the cause, and substantial amounts of money have been pledged, there has yet to be a viable solution presented to resolve the issue. From our discussion I believe it will take some time to come up with a solution that suits everyone. In the mean time I believe that each of us needs to evaluate our own soil and water usage and determine if there are ways that we can implement individual plans to reduce nutrient run-off. Although agriculture is not the only culprit, we do play a part, and if we don’t do all that we can to try and fix our own problems, others, who may not be so ag friendly, will develop regulations for us. Just because a solution has not been found does not mean that we should simply stand around and wait.

To round out our session in Toledo, we had the opportunity to meet with representatives from The Andersons, as well as tour a local greenhouse facility. Many may see The Andersons as simply an Ohio-based grain handler, or a general store, when in reality the company has a much more diversified footprint. The Andersons is one of the largest grain handlers in the country, dealing on an international scale, not to mention its vast investments in ethanol, fertilizers and railways. It was interesting to speak to their representatives and better understand the great significance that the global market has on commodity prices here in Ohio. Although we are all aware of the growing globalization of the economy, it is impressive to see the direct impact that world events have on the price of grain and other agricultural products here at home.

Wrapping up our tour, we visited Whitehouse Specialty Crops, a local greenhouse facility specializing in tomato production. It was impressive to see how the use of technology has allowed this greenhouse to grow delicious, ripe tomatoes even in the coldest and darkest months of winter. It is interesting to consider the vast diversity in agriculture we have here in Ohio. From large grain farms to small greenhouse operations we are all a part of agriculture, and we all have the same basic needs and concerns. This session was a great learning experience, and I got to enjoy one of the best tomato sandwiches I’ve had in a long time!