WASHINGTON — County presidents representing the Ohio Farm Bureau trekked to Capitol Hill this week to get their messages across and make sure legislators know farmers are watching.
The group landed in D.C. Monday morning and instantly went to work getting up to date on where legislation stands in the House and Senate.
Many topics were on the presidents’ minds even before landing, but the one they seem to be most vocal about is climate change.
Both Stark County President Jim Halter and Belmont County President Don Carpenter said the climate change legislation is a pressing issue for farmers because of the impact it will have, not only on food costs but fertilizer and higher energy costs.
The climate change bill appears to be stalled in the Senate — for now. But Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, Ind.-Conn., have begun discussions seeking a compromise bill on climate control.
They may enter the legislation into a committee in the next couple of weeks, but it would not come to a full Senate vote by May or June.
However, with a shortened year because of elections and the summer break, progress is expected to be hampered.
However, the stalled Senate bill is not stopping the Environmental Protection Agency from stepping forward with regulation.
“We hear it is not going anywhere with this Congress, but the EPA is a different story,” said Rick Krause, American Farm Bureau Federation lobbyist who works with climate change legislation.
Krause explained the EPA has the ability to create regulations after two steps are completed. The first one was when the EPA made the finding the greenhouse gases are affecting the earth and people.
The second step is regulation of the greenhouse gases. This could mean the proposed “cow tax” and the possibility of credits for conservation practices on farms as well as other rules.
Krause told the Farm Bureau members it is up to them to tell legislators how climate control legislation will negatively effect farmers and ranchers.
Other legislation that is at the top of the list for discussion with legislators is food safety, the estate tax and health care.
Although it is not a federal issue, the state issue of livestock care is also being discussed among members of the Ohio Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Estate tax. The estate tax is also of great importance to farmers this year. Currently, the federal estate tax exemption is $3.5 million per person and the tax rate in 45 percent.
However, the estate tax exemption rate will fall back to $1 million and a top rate of 55 percent Jan. 1, 2011. The message Farm Bureau members are trying to get across to legislators is that the estate taxes will have negative impacts on the family farm.
A hot topic on Capitol Hill is health care and the Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents are telling legislators that they don’t support the plan — the added costs for farmers are too high.
The proposed plan calls for penalties on individuals who fail to get coverage and penalties for not getting healthcare for employees.