March usually gets us thinking about spring. In our house, it also gets us to thinking about birthdays and Farm Bureau.
For those of you who faithfully read this farm column, you might remember what I have done each March since 2015. As you are reading this, I, along with other county Farm Bureau presidents, will be wrapping up our trip to Washington, D.C., and heading back to Ohio.
Why are we going again? Advocacy. Advocacy. Advocacy.
Looking on the Internet, I found this definition from Citizens Advice Sheffield: “Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them; defend and safeguard their rights; have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.”
When you relate this definition to agriculture, you can see why advocates are needed. Farmers and ranchers make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population and their average age is 58. It is an industry that carries a lot of risk. Adverse weather, market or financial conditions can turn perfect efforts into total loss. The loss of dairy farms in recent times is a perfect example.
This minority deserves an advocate.
Farmers and ranchers want their voices to be heard and given genuine consideration when laws and rules are being made that will greatly impact their ability to keep farming. For most elected officials (and consumers), it has been three to four generations since a family member has owned and operated a farm. How can they make regulations for agriculture when they really don’t understand it?
Agriculture is a very complex industry. Organic, conventional, large, small, animal, grain, vegetable, fruit, horticulture — the list goes on and on. Who better to advocate for agriculture than people who are directly involved in the industry?
That’s where the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation comes in. This grassroots organization has members in every county and provides the “vehicle” for Ohio farmers to be informed, unite and act.
Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities is the mission. The state staff advocates for agriculture on the local, state and national levels all the time while farmers are busy farming. But with events like this and in so many other ways, they equip the members to advocate for themselves.
So this week I am pretty certain that I will have learned new things and expanded my knowledge on priority issues, and shared information and took steps to build a better working relationship with the elected officials who represent Ohio.
Advocacy needs to happen in Washington, D.C., but is also important to happen in your own hometown. By being open with your friends and neighbors about what is happening on your farm and being willing to answer questions about why you do it.
Submitted by Mary Smallsreed, a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau, who grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.
OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.