WASHINGTON — County Farm Bureau presidents from across Ohio traveled to Capitol Hill in an effort to tell elected officials farmers aren’t taking it any more and they want action.
Almost every discussion with Congressional delegates centered around cap and trade, health care, estate taxes, trade deficit and reconnecting agriculture with the average citizen.
The Farm and Dairy sat in on four meetings with Congressional delegates or their aides — Reps. Charlie Wilson, Tim Ryan, John Boccieri and Steve LaTourette — over the three-day visit March 8, 9 and 10. Boccieri was the only one of the four who was available to meet with the group in person.
In a separate forum hosted by U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Steve Austria, R-Ohio, told the group he is concerned with the direction of the country’s debt.
“I didn’t come to D.C. to run up this kind of debt,” Austria said. “We have to live within our fiscal means.”
Stark County Farm Bureau President Jim Halter told Boccieri in their meeting that the country’s debt is just too much.
“We really believe we are spending too much money,” Halter said.
Ashland County President Willard Welch made a similar comment to Boccieri.
“We can’t spend more than we are bringing in for ourselves, so why are we doing it as a nation,” Welch said.
Boccieri agreed with the group members and added the trade deficit is not helping the economy, either.
“When we import more than we export, it makes our economy even weaker,” Boccieri said.
Sen. George Voinovich told the group March 9 the fiscal crisis is the worst it has ever been.
“You subtract agribiz from Ohio’s economy and we are in deep, deep trouble,” Voinovich said.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents Ohio’s Ninth District, also spoke to the group about powering America and reconnecting people with agriculture.
The Democratic congresswoman also pushed for the USDA to add a division centering on fuel.
“It has always been food, fiber, forestry, and I have fought for years to add fuel,” said Kaptur. “We have to figure out how to power America.”
Another project she would like to see grow is urban agriculture. She said the city needs to take lessons from the countryside, and said many blighted areas in cities could be transformed into gardens and areas where food can be grown.
Boccieri agreed. He said he would like to see buildings that are inhabitable or not being used torn down, top soil hauled in and fruits and vegetables take their place.
Other hot topics included health care and estate taxes. The Ohio Farm Bureau as a whole hopes the federal estate tax will be dropped entirely, but is hoping some type of compromise can be made so that many family farms are not ruined.
Currently, the federal estate tax exemption is $3.5 million per person and the tax rate is 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 Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents also told legislators they don’t support the existing health care plan.
“I’m not sure I want to mortgage my kids future to pay for health care,” said Welch.
The proposed plan calls for penalties on individuals who fail to get coverage and penalties for not getting health care for employees.
Many legislators expressed their support for Ohio’s farmers over the issue throughout the trip.
The Ohio Farm Bureau was not the only state group visiting the nation’s capitol. The Kansas Farm Bureau, Idaho Farm Bureau and the Indiana Farm Bureau were also in town. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau visited at the end of the week. For more information on the cap and trade issue discussed in Washington, click here.