(Scroll down for a slide show of scenes from this year’s Ohio Farm Bureau annual meeting.)
Coming off of what Executive Director Jack Fisher called “our toughest membership campaign ever,” the farm group’s leadership was reminded “nothing is more important than face-to-face contact,” Fisher said in his annual address Dec. 2.
And in his address, state President Brent Porteus emphasized, “when you talk, we are listening, and we want you to talk.”
“Never discount the importance of what you think and why,” he said, adding that grassroots element is the power of Farm Bureau.
Porteus, who was elected to his third one-year term as Ohio Farm Bureau president, told Farm and Dairy the farm community needs to find ways to recognize how the public views agriculture.
“It’s about the public’s perception of us. What’s important to them?” the Coshocton County farmer said.
“We have to find a way to reconnect,” Porteus said. “We’re not going to drive this by ourselves.”
Do the math, he told delegates. There’s 298 million of them and only 2 million of us.
“Agriculture cannot afford anything short of a unified front.”
Like never before, consumers, activists, the media, politicians are all “weighing in on your business,” Fisher said.
“Farming is under the spotlight and, as you know, where there’s light, there’s heat,” he added.
It’s Farm Bureau’s job, he said, “to manage the heat.”
That heat included the agreement reached last summer between the Humane Society of the United States, Ohio Farm Bureau and Ohio’s major commodity groups, in regards to recommendations to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
Farm Bureau led the effort, Fisher said, to avoid the issue of animal care being decided in the ballot box.
“There is no more challenging and contentious issue for Ohio farmers than determining right from wrong in farm animal care,” he said, and added, it is an issue that agriculture needs to control — by listening and speaking out.
“The national food conversation needs balance,” Fisher said.
The 315+ voting delegates took considerable time to debate ongoing funding woes within Ohio State University Extension, one of the farm group’s priorities, along with funding and support for Ohio State’s ag programs, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
At least two county Extension programs are facing elimination because of county funding woes, and Carroll County’s Extension office closed this summer, effectively ending the 4-H program in that county.
The final policy statement reaffirms Farm Bureau’s support of the land grant mission, the concept of Extension and the value of information transfer, OFB President Porteus said.
But the farm group is also challenging OSU Extension to “undergo a transformation,” the policy reads, with a renewed emphasis on “agriculture and natural resources, 4-H youth development, and nutrition.” And delegates concurred that “youth in every county should have the opportunity to participate in 4-H.”
“Our delegates are saying ‘we need that 4-H presence’ in each county,” Porteus said. “4-H and youth development is extremely important to everybody.”
In a code change, delegates approved a change to the organization’s definition of agriculture to include “captive cervidae,” or farmed, domestic deer.
Delegates also looked ahead to the upcoming state budget battle, and passed policy supporting incentivizing savings, performance audits and privatization of certain government assets/functions.
Steve Hirsch, of Chillicothe, was re-elected to his fourth term on the state board of trustees, and re-elected first vice president during the annual meeting. Keith Truckor, of Metamora, was re-elected to a fifth term on the state board and was re-elected treasurer.
Other trustees re-elected included: Craig Adams, of Leesburg, representing Adams, Brown, Clermont and Highland counties; Kim Davis, of Carrollton, representing Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties; Paul Harrison, of Fostoria, representing Hancock, Hardin, Seneca and Wyandot counties;
Mike Schumm, of Willshire, representing Allen, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert counties; and Ellen Joslin, Sidney, representing Auglaize, Logan, Mercer and Shelby counties.
John Mossbarger, of Washington Court House, representing Clinton, Fayette, Greene and Warren counties, was elected to his first full three-year term. He joined the board in February, 2010, to fill an unexpired term.
Andra Troyer, of London, was re-elected southwest women’s trustee.