OFB taking new steps to shape debate

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Farm Bureau kicked off three initiatives during its annual meeting last week designed to respond to the changes taking place within agriculture and society in general.

More than 900 members attended the annual conference in Columbus Nov. 29-Dec. 1 to review the year’s accomplishments and set policies for the coming year.

The farm group unveiled its new promotional campaign, launched a new department of agricultural ecology and revamped its metro staff position that will work with urban legislators and residents on issues that affect agriculture.

OFBF’s new focus on agricultural ecology mirrors a pyramid concept promoted by Ohio State University Ag Dean Bob Moser that encompasses production efficiency, profitability, environmental responsibility and social issues.

This department, headed by Constance Cullman Jackson, will tackle the divisive issues of farm size, water and air quality, and biotechnology that are facing Ohio farmers and consumers.

“Customers don’t relate to what’s driving the changes in our industry,” said OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher. “We want to help mold the debate. We must continue to be outspoken.”

The farm organization’s new promotional campaign, “Ohio Farmers are Naturally Resourceful,” touts the farmer’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Billboards featuring the new theme have already been installed around the state and the slogan will be used in other promotional and educational materials.

The third link will be the reintroduction of the organization’s metro staff position, which will tie in with the existing Promotion and Education program, only with an urban emphasis.

Fisher said the metro staff member will work specifically to inform urban residents and legislators of issues related to agriculture. “Having an understanding of the impact of agriculture, even in a metro county, is very important,” Fisher said.

Ohio Farm Bureau officials repeated their support of livestock regulation legislation that awaits the governor’s signature and plan to speak up during the rule-making process of the pending legislation.

S.B. 141 transfers authority of regulating large-scale livestock operations from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

“We want to maintain and grow the livestock industry in Ohio. Make no mistake about that,” said OFBF’s Fisher.

Aside from Buckeye Egg, which is in the courts on numerous environmental charges, Fisher said the 120 other livestock operations in Ohio that have animal units of 1,000 or more have been well managed. “As a whole, problems are few and far between,” he said.

Fisher said Ohio Farm Bureau supported the transfer of regulatory authority to ODA because the department is a strong proponent of agriculture, and yet a tough regulator.

The Ohio Farm Bureau presented three individuals with its Distinguished Service to Agriculture awards: Mark List, Dr. Luther Tweeten and state Rep. Rose Vesper.

List, who retired last December as deputy director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, had a career that spans four decades of service to Ohio agriculture, starting as an extension agent in Wood and Franklin counties.

Tweeten, is professor emeritus of ag policy and trade at Ohio State. His work is known internationally and he has authored or co-authored seven books and more than 500 journal articles and published papers.

Vesper is a former county Farm Bureau president who now serves the 72nd district in the Ohio House of Representatives. She currently chairs the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee.

Columbiana County native and former Farm and Dairy editor Tim Reeves received OFBF’s Agricultural Communicator Award. Reeves, who is currently completing theology studies, has been editor of Ohio’s Country Journal since the monthly began in 1992.

Chuck Miller, vo-ag teacher in the Lancaster school system, received OFBF’s Agricultural Educator Award.

Outstanding farmers. Doug and Leslie Rhoades of Darke County won the statewide Outstanding Young Farm Couple award and John Dick, Crawford County, won the Outstanding Young Farmer award.

Doug and Leslie Rhoades will represent the state, based on highest point total, in the national Young Farmer/Young Farm Couple competition at the American Farm Bureau annual meeting in Orlando in January.

They operate a dairy and grain farm near Greenville and have sold registered breeding stock from their Brown Swiss herd to six countries. To help finance their two children’s college education (they are also expecting their third child), Doug and Leslie planted a stand of hybrid black walnut trees over the past three years.

Outstanding Young Farmer John Dick operates a dairy and grain farm near Bucyrus in partnership with his father.

Young Farmer finalists included Jason Dagger of Champaign County and Kathy Ayers of Ashland County.

Young Farm Couple finalists were Jeff and Amy Bardall of Harrison County and Jason and Erin Shawk of Crawford County.

Melanie Wilt won the statewide discussion meet and will travel to Orlando in January to participate in the national competition.

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