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Ohio Farm Bureau delegates set policy for 2010
CINCINNATI, Ohio (OFBF) - Family farmers from throughout Ohio celebrated their successful effort to pass State Issue 2 during the 91st annual meeting of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), held Dec. 2-4 in Cincinnati. Other high priorities for voting delegates during the annual policy session included climate change, wildlife damage, extension funding and challenges to dairy farmers. Delegates also talked at length about important activities following passage of Issue 2, which created the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Animal Care Issues
"I think there was a great sense of accomplishment as far as what Farm Bureau can do when people across rural Ohio set their minds to doing something that's important to them and to their communities," said OFBF President Brent Porteus. "Clearly, many consumers are very removed from what livestock farmers do. Issue 2 was just the tip of the iceberg; we have to connect better with the public and help them understand the realities of what it takes to produce safe, affordable food." Porteus also thanked the coalition of other Ohio farm organizations that worked diligently on the ballot measure.
With the expectation that out-of-state activists will launch a campaign to undo Issue 2, which Ohio voters passed with a nearly two-thirds margin, OFBF Senior Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert said he believes Farm Bureau delegates "look forward to taking their story to the public."
Stimpert said delegates believe farmers and consumers will be best served if animal care issues are addressed at the national level rather than state by state campaigns preferred by the activist organizations. OFBF will be encouraging the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) to take leadership in this national cause.
OFBF delegates were "very skeptical" about the rush to create legislation dealing with climate change, according to Stimpert. The delegate body adopted policy that recognizes the need to protect the environment, seeks clarity of the global warming question and considers the economic consequences that legislation would have for farmers and all Ohioans.
"They're worried that political forces have taken over what should be decided by science," Stimpert added.
Concern over wildlife damage, particularly from Ohio's exploding deer population, made its annual appearance on the policy agenda. "Whether it's danger to cars and drivers, residential landscaping or crop damage, we need to find a solution," Porteus said. Delegates explored how to frame the issue as a question of property rights. Crops, fruit trees and other farm products are personal property, which farmers believe they have the right to protect.
Adequate funding for Ohio State University Extension and its county operations was another policy topic. Delegates instructed their organization to work toward creative solutions to Extension funding challenges. One part of the effort will be to communicate to all parties that have control over funding, including the Board of Regents.
Challenges to Dairy Farmers
OFBF delegates called for AFBF to work with all national dairy interests to resolve the economic difficulties that regularly plague the dairy industry. OFBF members seek comprehensive, long term policies that are good for milk producers and consumers.
Addressing the debate over national health policy, delegates adopted a resolution opposing the so-called public option.
Representing all aspects of Ohio Agriculture
Stimpert complimented the 346 Farm Bureau members who represented their county Farm Bureaus as voting delegates.
"They take this work very, very seriously. These folks committed a lot of study hours to getting positions that are right for farmers, consumers, Ohioans and the nation as a whole," he said.
President Porteus, addressing the erroneous but frequently used description of Farm Bureau as being a representative of corporate agriculture, said "I wish anyone who believes that would come to our annual meeting and meet our delegates and members. You'd only need to brush shoulders with them for a little while to realize the cross-section of Ohio agriculture they represent. From the very small farmers to the bigger operators, they were all in the same room together setting the policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau."
More 2009 annual meeting stories: