2022 Ohio Agriculture and Rural Communities Action Plan

The agriculture sector faces an ever-increasing volatile economy. Crop prices were solid in 2021, but farmer inputs for those crops skyrocketed. Consumers are paying more, but that money is not trickling down to farmers. While dealing with the lingering effects of the pandemic and multiple economic uncertainties, Ohio Farm Bureau calls on policymakers to implement this action plan to help bolster Ohio agriculture and our rural communities. The following is a condensed version of the full action plan that was shared with lawmakers at Ag Day at the Capital in February.

Strengthen the food Supply Chain and Focus on the Economy

The challenge: From bottlenecks at livestock processing facilities to increasing feed prices to limited availability of important crop inputs like fertilizer and herbicides, farmers have been impacted by supply chain issues in the wake of the pandemic.

Progress to date: From the early days of COVID-19 disruptions in early 2020, Farm Bureau has taken aggressive action to get resources to and solve problems for members.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Promote policies and programs to increase meat and poultry processing capacity in Ohio to make the food system more resilient for farmers and consumers.
  • Secure resources to rebuild, repair or modernize transportation infrastructure, including rural roads and bridges, ports and inland waterway locks and dams.
  • Advocate for fiscal policies and regulatory reforms to incentivize business sustainability that recognize the diversity and unpredictability of the agricultural industry.
  • Support the development of businesses that produce value-added products from locally grown agricultural commodities.
  • Promote enactment of legislation that helps farmers meet their labor needs.

Why should you care: Although Americans are paying more for their food on average, most farmers haven’t seen these gains on the farm. Only 8 cents of each dollar spent on food goes to cover production costs on the farm. Solving the supply chain and economic challenges will not be easy, but Farm Bureau and its members remain dedicated to delivering the food, fiber and fuel needed to get America back on track.

Protect Ohio Landowner Rights

The challenge: Ohio lags behind most states in protections for landowners.

Progress to date: Farm Bureau has been instrumental in providing increased nuisance protection for farmers from neighbor lawsuits and supported a new law to ensure “nature” cannot bring a lawsuit. Farm Bureau filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court and was successful in giving landowners the right to access the federal courts in eminent domain actions, including important protections not available under state law.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Lead efforts for additional landowner protections, including eminent domain reform, streamlined judicial procedures and agricultural easement program enforcement.
  • Seek stronger requirements for local government use of private land for projects that impact agricultural land, such as rails-to-trails projects.
  • Continue to engage in ballot initiatives, judicial challenges and nuisance lawsuits so farmers can freely and responsibly operate their farms for generations to come.

Why should you care: When Ohio landowners are faced with losing property rights through eminent domain, the law doesn’t make it easy for them to defend their own interests and landowners often remain at a disadvantage.

Support the Next Generation of Farmers

The challenge: Agriculture in Ohio is at a generational crossroads. Strategies must be deployed to ensure the next generation of producers is well positioned to continue Ohio’s strong position as a top agricultural production state.

Progress to date: In 2021, the Ohio House passed HB 95, creating the Ohio Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program, which will help the next generation enter agriculture by removing some of the existing barriers to entry and exit. Next step is to advocate for the bill’s passage in the Ohio Senate and to have it signed into law.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Work to support young and beginning farmers as they face significant challenges in this current economic environment.
  • Advocate for career technical education to encourage the growth of agricultural education programs.
  • Promote the growth of critical workforce development programs like TechCred and industry credentialing.

Why should you care: The average age of the Ohio farmer is currently 58 and because they are aging at a quicker rate than new farmers are joining the profession, that number will continue to climb. Many beginning farmers do not have the levels of capital or credit necessary to begin farming and the amount of land that is zoned for agriculture is finite.

Connect Rural Ohio

The challenge: Running a business, precision agriculture platforms, virtual learning opportunities, and telehealth all require reliable connectivity. Broadband development is crucial to the economic viability of Ohio communities. Now that broadband has received historic levels of funding, it is crucial that reliable broadband infrastructure is delivered throughout rural parts of Ohio.

Progress to date: One of the biggest line items in the new biennial budget is $250 million for the Ohio Rural Broadband Expansion grant program, created to help provide faster internet access to underserved rural Ohio communities.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Support legislation and initiatives that bring proper infrastructure, affordable rural access to broadband and high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved parts of the state.
  • Engage in all discussions surrounding the state’s comprehensive broadband plan, as the largest landowner organization in Ohio.

Why should you care: The quality of life for rural Ohioans depends on technology, and whether it is used for education, business, health care or entertainment, the need for reliable internet access is critical.

Invest in Farmers’ Responsible Land Management Practices

The challenge: How farmers operate and the tools they use to raise their products continue to come under attack. Additionally, important funding has been allocated to partner with farmers in northwest Ohio to continue expanding best practices to address the state’s water quality. Steps need to be taken to increase the reach of programs like H2Ohio statewide.

Progress to date: Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, a comprehensive, data-driven water quality plan to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure and prevent lead contamination, received $170 million in the budget in 2021.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Actively engage with regulators and industry partners to ensure sound science and workable regulations are used for the approval of crop protectants, pest controls and other technologies needed to have a sustainable farm.
  • Advance research and real-world examples of the best land management practices and share those results with farmers and consumers, which will continue to be the focus of the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network.
  • Participate in and promote the Ohio Agricultural Conservation Initiative and help farmers participate in a fully-funded H2Ohio program.
  • Continue to work with our conservation and commodity organization partners to promote ongoing conservation programs that enhance Ohio’s water quality.
  • Provide voluntary, incentive-based tools and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and foresters to maximize carbon sequestration and the reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions.

Why should you care: Across Ohio, farmers are taking up the call to work together to improve water quality for our families, neighbors and community. Ensuring these voluntary measures are successful will keep regulations at a minimum statewide.

Help Farmers Cope with Farm Stress

The challenge: The challenges of farming have been mounting for years, creating a strain on families and employers.

Progress to date: Ohio Farm Bureau created a Farm Stress Collaborative that has brought together ag and mental health experts for the first time to create and provide resources.

Next, Farm Bureau will:

  • Focus on grassroots initiatives that engage a wide range of stakeholders to offer prevention strategies for men, women and youth at risk in agriculture.
  • Promote a culture that recognizes mental health as a key component of overall health for members and reduces stigma.
  • Support policies and legislation to provide stress assistance programs to farmers, to help increase awareness and reduce stigma for rural and farmer mental health issues.

Why should you care: The demands and stresses of farm life have reached a critical stage with pandemic impacts on top of natural disasters, extreme weather events, financial pressures due to fluctuating commodity prices, labor shortages, trade disruptions and more. Creating more and better mental health resources is imperative to keeping rural communities vibrant and strong.

In addition to these priority action items, Farm Bureau will continue supporting the development of energy solutions, including advocating for greater transparency and education for royalty holders and members accommodating wind and solar energy, as well as supporting a strong Renewable Fuels Standard. Farm Bureau also will continue to promote trade market expansion opportunities.

A strong grassroots network is important for ensuring Ohio has the right policies and political leaders in place to support farmers and their communities. In addition, seeking opportunities to engage and communicate directly with the public remains vitally important and remains a top priority of Ohio Farm Bureau.

Online extra

Download the 2022 Ohio Agriculture and Rural Communities Action Plan

Having opportunities to attend leadership institutes, advocate for rural Ohioans on the state and national level, facilitate young ag professionals events, and serve in a variety of leadership positions have helped my skills grow exponentially.
Sara Tallmadge's avatar
Sara Tallmadge

Ashland County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
I was gifted the great opportunity through an Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways grant to run a series of summer camps here. That really expanded my vision of what ‘grow, maintain, sustain and explain’ could actually be.
Jim Bruner's avatar
Jim Bruner

Mezzacello Urban Farms

Farming for Good
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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