Presidents’ Trip to DC backed family businesses

For most, March means spring. In the Smallsreed family, it means birthdays – my husband, youngest daughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law and numerous cousins all celebrate birthdays in March.

March now holds some Farm Bureau memories for me, as well.  For those of you who faithfully read this farm column, you might remember what I have done in March since 2015 – travel to Washington, D.C., with presidents from other Ohio county Farm Bureaus to advocate for farmers.

“Did you talk about repealing and replacing “Obamacare?” I have been asked that many times, and, yes, we talked about it. It was definitely the hottest topic around Capitol Hill. But that’s not all we talked about. The farm bill was at the top of our list. The current bill will need to be replaced in 2018, and although our representatives’ attention was still on “Obamacare,” we expressed the importance of the safety-net and risk-management tools that the farm bill provides farmers. And with 80 percent of the farm bill tied to SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – and other food programs, there has to be some room in the bill for food education. One part of Ohio Farm Bureau’s mission is to connect people with their food and the people who grow it.

As the new administration is in transition, there was also a lot of talk about regulatory and tax reform. All Americans have an interest in a regulatory process that is transparent, fact-based, respects the will of Congress and observes the separation of powers in the Constitution. Farmers and other small, family-owned businesses need a tax code that recognizes their financial challenges and encourages, rather than hinders farm and business transfers from generation to generation within a family.

Improving the value of the American market share of world trade has been a topic on all three of my trips to Washington. Enforce the trade agreements we have, make sure it is fair trade and update what needs updating.  Did you know that one of every three acres farmed in Ohio is exported? All U.S. industries, including agriculture, need to be protected when making trade agreements.

I appreciate the time we were given to share these topics with Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and the aides of Congressman Timothy Ryan, D-Howland, and Congressman David Joyce, R-Painesville. I also appreciate the forum organized by Congressman Bob Gibbs, R-Washington Township (Holmes County). I believe my fellow presidents and I represented Ohio well.

A highlight of the trip was meeting American Farm Bureau President, Zippy Duvall.  President Duvall is a third-generation dairy farmer who raises chickens and beef cattle in Georgia.

I like the fact that he and his family have been dairy farmers and understand the unique challenges of dairy farming.  But more than that, his enthusiasm and passion for agriculture and the Farm Bureau was contagious. He challenged us to stay engaged because there is great opportunity to make a difference in our industry and our country.

As we were waiting for our plane that would take us back to Cleveland, Danielle, one of the staff members traveling with us – knowing I would be writing an article about the trip – asked what it would be about. As I reflected on all that we heard and did, I concluded that this year’s trip was special because we did more than advocate for agriculture. We were advocates for all kinds of small family-owned businesses. Thank you, Ohio Farm Bureau and its members, for making this experience possible.

Smallsreed is a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.