Several Ohio senators traveled to Cincinnati to the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting last week, including Senate President Bill Harris (at podium), R-Ashland; President Pro Tempore Tom Niehaus (standing, at left), R-New Richmond; Shannon Jones (right of podium), R-Springboro; and Majority Whip Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo.
(Please scroll down for more photos from the OFB annual meeting. To read about this year’s annual meeting award recipients, click here.)
CINCINNATI — Ohio Farm Bureau members and delegates paused during the group’s annual meeting Dec. 2-4 in Cincinnati to recap the year’s accomplishments — membership gain, launching the Center for Food and Animal Issues, legislative victories, and a win at the voting booth on Issue 2, which created the Livestock Care Standards Board.
“I’m not sure we’ve ever accomplished anything greater than passage of Issue 2,” Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President Jack Fisher told the members Dec. 3.
But it was only a brief pat on the back, as leaders and members turned to look ahead to the continued fight for generally accepted farming practices.
Just first step
Fisher warned Farm Bureau members the fight’s just beginning.
“Do not underestimate what you have accomplished,” Fisher told the members, “but, likewise, do not underestimate the job ahead.”
He likened it to the football score at the end of a first quarter, with the “good guys” winning.
“But the bad guys played very little defense, and they’re about to go on the offensive.
“It’s going to get ugly,” Fisher said.
He said he expects the Humane Society of the United States to unleash its arsenal of money and sound bites in Ohio next year with one goal: to “undo what you accomplished with state Issue 2.”
Farming in new world
“The world in which you and I farm has changed,” first-term President Brent Porteus told the members in his address Dec. 3. “In this new world, what you and I do is no longer about food.”
Farming, Porteus said, is now an environmental cause. It’s about social justice, economics, health and politics. It’s also become a human rights cause, the Coshocton County cattleman said, and an animal rights cause.
“Every time you and I climb on the tractor, we’re jumping into the middle of a thousand debates.”
“Everyone wants to tell us how to farm,” he added, “but most have no idea what it takes to farm.”
The Ohio Farm Bureau has to step up and lead changes that affect its members, Porteus said, who whipped through a list of changes that started with “energy policy that makes sense” and ended with sending Humane Society of the United States’ CEO Wayne Pacelle “and his band of anti-agriculture activists packing back to Washington D.C.”, earning a round of applause from the delegates present.
The wish list, however, isn’t without a price tag, Porteus said. The Issue 2 battle cost the state Farm Bureau about $2 million, and the budget for its new Center for Food and Animal Issues is another $1 million.
Facing the likely HSUS-backed ballot initiative in 2010 to “undo” Issue 2, the state’s largest farm organization and its members will be called on to dig into pockets again next year.
“The costs of defending agriculture’s honor just keep going up,” Porteus said.
He suggested the OFBF may have to look at its procedures and staffing, including the field office structure and a single statewide membership rate, to find more efficient ways of doing business.
Bring it on
While members didn’t relish a prolonged public opinion battle, they voiced their strong support.
“We definitely have not seen the end of it,” said Harrison County Farm Bureau delegate Jayne Wallace, who added that it’s now more important than ever to talk to nonfarm people about farm life.
“Even for a rural county, I was amazed at the number of people who didn’t understand agriculture,” she said. “You would think it would be a no-brainer.”
Her peer to the north, David “Lee” Kellogg of Ashtabula County, said he was encouraged by the response voters gave agriculture the first time around, but concurred that farmers will need to share their stories with those around them.
“If every one of us can reach out and touch someone, it can be done,” Kellogg said.
Too many people view the livestock care issue as “a big livestock farm issue, and it’s definitely not,” he added.
Will AFBF step in?
OFBF Senior Vice President of Public Policy Keith Stimpert said delegates believe farmers and consumers would be better served if animal care issues are addressed at the national level, rather than state-by-state campaigns preferred by the activist organizations.
He said OFBF will be encouraging the American Farm Bureau Federation to take leadership in this national cause.
Also on table
Other priorities for voting delegates during the annual policy session included climate change, wildlife damage, funding forOhio State University Extension, and challenges to dairy farmers.
The delegate body adopted policy that recognizes the need to protect the environment, seeks clarity of the global warming question and considers the economic consequences that legislation would have for farmers and all Ohioans.
OFBF delegates were “very skeptical” about the rush to create legislation dealing with climate change, according to Stimpert.
“They’re worried that political forces have taken over what should be decided by science,” Stimpert added.
Adequate funding for Ohio State Extension and its county operations was another policy topic. Delegates instructed their organization to work toward creative solutions to Extension funding challenges.
OFBF delegates also called for AFBF to work with all national dairy interests to resolve the economic difficulties that regularly plague the dairy industry.
In addition to Porteus’ re-election as president, Steve Hirsch of Chillicothe was re-elected vice president, his second term in that office. He represents Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties.
Keith Truckor of Metamora was re-elected to his second term as treasurer. He also serves as a trustee, representing Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties.
Joyce Payne, of Waterloo, was also re-elected to the trustee board for a second term, representing Athens, Gallia, Lawrence and Meigs counties. Also re-elected were: Daryl Knipp, representing Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood counties; Judy Loudenslager, of Marion, northwest Ohio women’s trustee ; Chuck Lausin, representing Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties; and Don Ralph, representing Crawford, Marion, Morrow and Richland counties.
Frank Burkett III, of Massillon, was re-elected to the board to represent Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties. Burkett first joined the board in a special election in May 2007.
Newly elected trustees include Jim Swingle of Philo, who will represent Guernsey, Morgan, Muskingum and Perry counties; and Tom Williams of Piketon, who will represent Jackson, Pike, Scioto and Vinton counties. Pam Haley of West Salem was also elected to the board, serving as northeast Ohio women’s trustee.