With 110 delegates attending from the state’s county Farmers Union organizations and several additional non-voting members, the group had its largest convention in several years.
Nearly 250 people packed the convention hall for remarks by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown Jan. 31.
OFU also elected a new president, Joe Logan of Trumbull County. Logan succeeds Roger Wise, who served for six years, some of which were rocky for the organization.
Wise was instrumental in leading the OFU while it terminated an insurance business partnership, replacing it with its current property and casualty partner, Hastings Mutual Insurance. Wise also began a strategic plan process in 2013 that is aimed at boosting membership and kickstarting youth and other programming.
OFU convention delegates also approved a slate of policy priorities for 2014. The effects of the shale gas boom in rural Ohio, and the state’s regulatory regime led the topics of debate.
“A big challenge — and one we accept — is to work with others across the state and ensure the oil and gas industry isn’t given carte blanche to operate in rural Ohio for a decade or two and leave our farmland, air and water in worse shape than they found it,” Logan said.
OFU is sticking to previous policy regarding severance taxes. The organization supports increasing the tax on the oil and gas industry and would support proceeds funding environmental mitigation efforts, infrastructure and education in shale counties, restoration of the state’s Local Government Fund to previous levels, funding additional state regulatory efforts as outlined by OFU and funding an enhanced ‘orphan well’ identification and plugging program.
OFU delegates also approved language regarding legislative redistricting reform, maintaining the state’s renewable energy targets (25% by 2025), funding reforms to the Farm Services Agency farmer loan program, opposition to increasing the state’s beef check-off and several proposals on nutrient management in its special orders.
The Ohio Farmers Union is a family farmer and consumer organization with more than 4,000 members in Ohio.