LOUDONVILLE, Ohio — Farmers need to be willing to step up and educate their friends and neighbors about agriculture and how farmers protect their resources to ensure a viable and sustainable community. And with that purpose in mind, Ashland County Farm Bureau teamed up with the Ashland County Soil and Water Conservation District to host a joint annual meeting at Mohican Wilderness Adventures in Loudonville, Aug. 12.
The soil and water conservation district also teamed with Farm Bureau to recognize the Ashland County Commissioners with the recipients of the 2013 Friend of Agriculture award, for their willingness to recognize the importance of agriculture’s economic and social contributions to Ashland County.
Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District named Steve Hughes as their Cooperator of the Year. Hughes is an instructor at the Ashland/West Holmes Career Center where he teaches the importance of conservation in the schools.
The district presented the 2013 Horizon Award to Charles E Redmond, for his work with soil science. Redmond was instrumental in compiling the Ashland County Soil Survey and was a key resource person for many of the districts’ field days, conservation tours and other programs.
Christy Hulse was recognized as Ashland County Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Volunteer for 2013. She has been a member of the board, serving secretary, served on various committees and is a member of the policy development for the 2013 OFBF annual meeting.
Pam Haley and Roger Baker, members of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Board of Trustees, gave those attending the annual meeting an update on issues at the state level.
Haley, who serves as the northeast area women’s trustee, reported that through the efforts of the OFBF board and other agricultural groups, funding for Ohio State University Extension received a 3.9 percent increase, funding was retained for the Lake Erie Research Lab and Sea Grant program, OARDC received a 3.1 percent increase in funding and Ohio State ATI was able to retain 96 percent of their proposed 32 percent reduction in funding.
The new biennial budget also includes 52 million for the Clean Ohio Program, preserving green fields and farmland and renovating brownfields. Haley added that the legislature also made grain handlers exempt from the Commercial Activity Tax and Farm Bureau is working with agricultural educators and the Ohio Department of Education to improve the quality of agricultural education in the state, with access to resource materials for outside classroom programs and activities.
Water quality legislation
Baker, who serves as the district trustee for Ashland, Wayne, Medina and Summit counties, told the group that an important issue will be surfacing this year, dealing with water quality issues in Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys.
Baker said legislation has been introduced in the Senate that may not be fair to producers from a regulatory standpoint. He said the legislation would result in mandates with few results and put laws into effect which may or may not work, moving money from other programs to fight algae blooms in the lakes.
Baker said OFBF, together with several commodity groups across the state, have joined together to form a water quality task force to get farmers and industry people out telling the story about what agriculture is doing to protect Ohio lakes, rivers and streams.
Advisory council awards were presented to Happy Buckeyes and Happy Trails Councils. Veterinarian David Glauer reported that plans are underway for a Sustainable, Affordable Food Expo, scheduled for Nov. 2, at the Ashland County Fairgrounds.
The Expo will have three stations related to food safety, crop production and antibiotic resistance. Melanie Fitch, Adam Heffelfinger and Jared Wynn were named as recipients of the Ashland County Farm Bureau Scholarships for 2013.
Elected to the county board of trustees were Dan Kettering, Fred McClaflin, Marcia Lahmers and Justin Ringler. Elected as delegates to the 2014 OFBF annual meeting were Katie Kamenik, Christy Hulse, Matt Stewart and Dan Ledyard, with Bill Burrow as the alternate.
Kathy Berg, Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator, told the combined audience that the role of the Soil and Water Conservation District has changed.
“We are seeing more diversity,” she said. “We have seen a decrease in some of the major practices we have worked with in the past, but we are seeing more hoop houses, high tunnel and organic growers.”
Berg said the district is doing more work with urban landowners on lot splits and drainage issues and helping with planning commission issues.
“Public perception is everything and it is not going to go away, Berg said. “The public is not afraid to complain. We need to be careful in what we are doing. We don’t know our neighbors and they don’t know what we do. It is easy to point a finger at agriculture when there is a problem. We need to do things the right way. Agriculture is a critical piece of the economy.”
During the meeting, Farm Bureau members voted on policies at the county, state and national level. County polices included encouraging Farm Bureau and the county sheriff to work with the local Amish community to improve lighting on their vehicles, work with other counties and the OARDC/BioHio to find new materials for horseshoes to reduce road damage, and work to educate on court costs and how they are used.
State polices included regulating manure and fertilizer application, restoring full funding to the local government fund to help with costs incurred by unfunded mandates, help implement a mileage tax on vehicles to offset the reduction in reduced gasoline tax receipts, change the interpretation of the Ohio Revised Code to specify road patrol as a mandated service by the county sheriff, return taxes collected from casino operations to local governments, and housing lower level felons at the county level instead of state correctional facilities, leaving less room for housing inmates at the local level.
Members also voted on policy suggested by Ohio Farm Bureau Federation whether OFBF should maintain their support of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards for poultry and egg production or support legislation that was introduced through the agreement by HSUS and United Egg Producers on poultry and egg production.
National policies included opposing regulations that would impact farmer members, while not impacting produce imported into states ; it is not sufficient to have regulations on produce if the ability to enforce the regulations is not equal, as well.