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Retiring U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs jokingly tells his constituents that if they are happy or mad that he got involved in politics, they can blame Ohio Farm Bureau.
That’s because his path to Congress began when Gibbs was just getting started in agriculture and was asked by a neighboring farmer to join the organization.
“Back then I had a full-time job off of the farm and when I wasn’t at work I was cleaning up the farm I got started on,” Gibbs said. “With an hour drive to and from work, I didn’t have a whole lot of free time, but this fella in starched bib overalls stopped by one weekend and started telling me all about Farm Bureau.”
Not coming from a farm background himself, Gibbs had no idea what Ohio Farm Bureau was all about. That conversation, although Gibbs admits was longer than he wanted it to be with all of the chores that had to be done that day, led to him signing up for a membership in the mid ’70s.
“He told me how great Farm Bureau was and all of the things they were doing and all I could think about was how I had to get back to work,” Gibbs said. “Finally, after he went on for over an hour, I started wondering if I could afford a membership. I thought it had to be at least $400, which I didn’t have. So I just asked him how much it would cost and when he told me how little it was, I couldn’t get my checkbook fast enough so I could move on with the day.”
The very next year, Gibbs and his wife volunteered to work on the membership committee and that led to them co-chairing the committee a year later. From there, Gibbs served on the county Farm Bureau board, and eventually he assumed the role of president of the Holmes County Farm Bureau.
Then, an opportunity arose to serve as a trustee on the Ohio Farm Bureau board. He represented his district from 1985 to 2001, ultimately being elected president of the organization. To this day, Gibbs is the first state Farm Bureau president in the nation to serve as a member of Congress in Washington, D.C.
“I became more and more involved because I was getting upset with the way things were going for agriculture at the time,” Gibbs said. “Agriculture is a very tough business where you buy retail and sell wholesale, while you worry about markets, weather and over regulation. I saw Farm Bureau as someone who was looking after my best interests.”
Gibbs said there are many things he learned while being an Ohio Farm Bureau trustee that he used later on in his career of public service representing northeast Ohio, which included six years in the Ohio House, two years in the Ohio Senate and 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, Gibbs never lost an election.
Many important topics have been put in front of Congressman Gibbs over the years, but none more important to him than those that impact agriculture, especially when he realized just how much some of his colleagues didn’t know about the industry.
“You could tell by some of the questions that they were asking about certain things that they didn’t have a clue,” Gibbs said. “They didn’t understand how taxes affect farmers and small businesses. They couldn’t grasp the regulatory issues or the risks that farmers take on.”
That really concerns Gibbs when it comes to lawmakers putting together a new farm bill
“There will have to be a lot of education done through this process and the most important thing, which I learned from my time at Ohio Farm Bureau, is that we have to keep the nutrition component in the farm bill,” Gibbs said. “If you don’t do that, you will have a hard time passing a farm bill, and if we don’t support commodity production we won’t have enough food to feed this country and the world.”
Of all of the experiences that Gibbs has enjoyed as a member of Congress, he always appreciated when constituents made the trip to Washington to meet with him face to face, referencing the annual Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents Trip, and said that those visits are more important now than ever.
“When you hear directly from a farmer about concerns about passing the farm to the next generation, even staying in business because of taxes, or that they are having trouble finding labor, you realize these are real people with real issues,” Gibbs said. “That is something that Ohio Farm Bureau, as a grassroots organization, does best and I hope they continue to do that to allow their members’ voices to be heard in Washington.”
Photos by Dave Gore
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I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.Strong communities
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.Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.Growing our Generation
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