Ohio Farm Bureau has set six state priority issues for 2016: water quality; taxation and business climate; building community through economic development; energy; quality of life issues, and increasing grassroots awareness and involvement. These policies started at the grassroots level and worked their way up through Farm Bureau’s policy development process to the state level.
OFBF also has set its federal priority issues: food security and safety; regulatory reform; technology; trade; business climate and farm economy, and political and grassroots engagement.
Throughout the year, Ohio Farm Bureau will highlight the progress made with these priorities through its website, print publications, e-newsletters and social media. Ohio Farm Bureau members are encouraged to become engaged in these issues.
Ohio Farm Bureau will continue to lead statewide agricultural efforts to proactively solve the challenge of nutrient runoff and the impact of harmful algal blooms to Ohio’s waters. This year, OFBF will work toward implementing recommendations from the Healthy Water Ohio report. This will include partnerships with other organizations to explore and develop water trust and bond issue funding options that will help address nutrients entering Ohio’s waters. The organization will continue to implement Senate Bill 150 requirements with members and proactively encourage the use of the principles of “4R Nutrient Stewardship” (right source, right rate, right time, and right placement) that help farmers reduce nutrient runoff. Ohio Farm Bureau also will assist in implementing an action strategy for the cooperative agreement among Ohio, Michigan and Canada to reduce nutrient loading.
Taxation and Business Climate
Farm Bureau will continue to advocate for tax policy that strengthens Ohio’s economic competitiveness with a primary focus on the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) program. While the CAUV program has served as a critical farmland preservation tool for more than 40 years, recent Farm Bureau analysis shows there is a need for targeted changes to the program.
The CAUV formula’s capitalization method includes factors that inflate the value of farmland by including assumptions that land value constantly appreciates based on real estate market factors that have nothing to do with agricultural production. Farm Bureau will work with policymakers to improve the accuracy of the formula so that it provides a true value for farmland based only on the agricultural use of the land.
The integration, maintenance and expansion of the state’s highway, rail, water and air systems is important to ensure all Ohioans have access to vital goods, services and markets. Farm owners and their employees need access to this transportation network based on reasonable regulations. Farm Bureau will work to ensure those regulations include commercial driver’s license and axle weight limit exemptions for the operation of farm trucks and/or transporting machinery as part of farm and agribusiness operations.
Building Community Through Economic Development
One of the best ways to build strong communities is to provide young people with a quality education. Students in rural schools should be afforded the same opportunities and benefits offered to their urban and suburban counterparts. Farm Bureau will continue to support efforts to explore new and better methods for funding K-12 education and career technical education.
Farm Bureau also will continue to support the FFA program, specifically working to ensure students have access to excellent facilities. Farm Bureau also will support the development of businesses that produce value-added products from locally grown agricultural commodities. Having these value-added enterprises in Ohio, such as food processors, wineries and distilleries, creates numerous economic opportunities for local businesses including farms.
It’s also incredibly important to enhance communication links among farmers, employees, service providers and market outlets. Farm Bureau will continue to work with public entities and telecommunications providers to support expanded broadband Internet access in rural Ohio.
As Ohio’s energy generation and distribution systems are being rebuilt, the development of a comprehensive state energy policy that incorporates a wide array of energy production capabilities continues to be a priority for Ohio Farm Bureau. In 2016, Farm Bureau will continue to provide the education and training OFBF members need to understand how energy development impacts them. Finding ways to ensure oil and gas leaseholders are provided the most accurate information about production taking place on their land will be a particular focus. Farm Bureau also will promote the use of a diverse energy generation portfolio, which includes using Ohio’s own natural resources as well as cost effective renewable sources.
Quality of Life Issues
Opiate addiction has become an epidemic in our state, harming families and impeding workforce development for employers. Ohio Farm Bureau will continue to seek funding and community support for opiate addiction that includes programs that focus on housing, employment, treatment, medication and methods to reduce relapse.
While voters rejected efforts in 2015 to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, Ohio Farm Bureau recognizes this issue will continue to receive policy attention and will likely return to the ballot. The organization will continue to oppose the cultivation and sale of marijuana in Ohio for recreational use. However, if legalization is to occur in the state, Ohio Farm Bureau will act to ensure that certain principles are addressed, such as funding for addiction/treatment programs, tax structure, exclusion from the Ohio Constitution, no monopoly structure, use of sound science and research, a strong regulatory system, federal reclassification, workplace regulation, grow sites and appropriate access.
Increased Grassroots Political Awareness and Involvement
Ohio Farm Bureau will work with members to create numerous opportunities for political education and engagement during the 2016 election cycle. Some activities will include open seat screenings, ballot issues education, Ag Day at the Capital (Farm Bureau members meet one-on-one with their state legislator), designating legislators as Friends of Farm Bureau or Friends of Agriculture and other agriculture-based events with a focus on political issues.
Candidate education and recruitment and promotion of the candidate reception program for county Farm Bureaus also will remain a top priority. Ohio Farm Bureau will be forward thinking in considering the 2016 presidential and statewide elections and how those races will impact agriculture in Ohio in the future.