Do you live on a farm? No? When was the last time one of your ancestors lived on a farm? The American Farm Bureau Federation states that today’s average American is at least three generations removed from the farm. Some sources say the average is more like four generations.
Most people know little about where their food comes from or what it took to produce it. That is changing. Consumers want to know, but are not necessarily looking in the right places to gain this knowledge. They don’t understand the importance of agriculture and agricultural research, or why money needs to be spent to maintain our agricultural infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is an increasing disconnect between boots-on-the-ground agriculture, the consumer public, and those who write and enact agricultural rules and regulations.
How can this disconnect be stopped? Honestly, considering what is on the internet, I don’t know if it can be, but I am going to do what I can to share agricultural reality to those individuals I have contact with. One way I feel empowered to do so is through my involvement in the Ohio Farm Bureau. Twenty years ago, or even 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I would be sitting in the Statehouse having a discussion with an elected official about important issues related to Ohio agriculture. The fact that I have had many opportunities over the last two-and-a-half years to do this in Ohio and in Washington, D.C., is amazing to me.
The 2017 Ag Day at the Capital hosted by the Ohio Farm Bureau was Feb. 22. Farm Bureau members from every county in Ohio were in attendance. This annual event connects those who care about agriculture with Ohio legislators. Considering how many generations removed from the farm most Ohioans are, being able to communicate and discuss agricultural issues with legislators is essential. I have attended this event several times, but this year I got to do something new. I sat in on the Ohio Senate Ways & Means Committee hearings on Senate Bill 36, which deals with Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) of farmland. It was interesting to see our senators in action and hear the testimony from Ohio farmers and Ohio Farm Bureau staff.
In between visiting with legislators, my husband, Gary, and I sat in on a drug panel discussion. Members fro the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Ohio Drug Enforcement Agency and a regional agency spoke with us and answered questions about Ohio’s drug epidemic. Little did Gary and I know, that while we were part of this discussion, his parents were involved in a car accident caused by a driver who was under the influence of drugs. Thankfully, everyone involved in the accident is okay.
I appreciate State Reps, Glenn Holmes, D-McDonald and Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, and State Sen. Sean O’Brien’s D-Bazetta, staff member for spending time with my colleagues and I. We talked about issues that are important to the agricultural community and to most Ohioans. For example, the state budget, water quality, taxation and transportation. Their attention to issues that directly affect agriculture and the rural community is greatly appreciated. As I reflect on my experience in Columbus, I am preparing to visit Washington, D.C. next month to visit with more elected officials. I would like to leave you with these facts to ponder. The average age of an American farmer is 59. The current world populations is around 7.1 billion people and expected to rise to 9 billion by the year 2050. Should we advocate for agriculture? Can we afford not to?
Smallsreed is a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.