By Jessica Hazel Draganic, AgriPOWER Class VIII participant
This month’s session focused on the state legislative process. As we have already worked through some of the national issues affecting agriculture, this session focused on our state government. We looked at the role that legislative staff members play, where lobbyists fit into the picture, how state senators and representatives work in Columbus and in their respective territories.
We wrapped up the session hearing from Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judy French and getting a sneak peek into the future of Ohio politics in our discussion with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Our AgriPOWER agenda consistently surprises and impresses me every month, and this month was no exception. I have lived in Ohio the majority of my life, and I have never been in the Ohio Supreme Court. Not only did we have the pleasure of a tour with a very knowledgeable retired attorney, but we were able to have a candid discussion with Supreme Court Justice Judy French. I did well in high school civics class, but my background is not legal and I had no idea about the traditions and amount of writing and research that goes into the cases both on the presenting and residing sides. It was very interesting to hear Justice French’s background of growing up in a small-town in NE Ohio and her path to the Supreme Court.
We had a great tour of the Ohio Department of Agriculture and got a sense of what all the laboratories, research departments and marketing departments do there on the ODA grounds in Reynoldsburg for the agriculture community and how they impact every Ohioan. Our class had a panel discussion with nearly every department head at ODA. Kevin Elder, Chief Division of Livestock Permitting, met with us and he summed up what they do in state government as “regulations are put in place, and then our job is to try to back things up but to not be ridiculous.” I took that as a pretty good quote that can be applied to all state government. ODA really has so much regulatory effect on many aspects of daily life; from the gas station in your town, to the county fair ride inspection for safety and the obvious animal safety and disease control.
As I had previously stated, our AgriPOWER agenda has never let me down and this session we had both round table, panel discussions and one-on-one conversations with state elected officials. All elected officials emphasized how important it is for us to build our relationship with officials. Invite them to coffee; have them out to your farm. Hearing about your personal experiences goes so much further than a form email they have gotten from 100 people. In general, this class session yet again spoke to how important it is to step outside your comfort zone and get to know the regulators, elected officials and staff members. At the end of the day we are all just people trying to make Ohio better.