LIMA, Ohio — They gathered to discuss the three major grains grown in Ohio — corn, wheat and soybeans. But the 250 or so growers who attended the annual Ohio Grain Farmers Symposium Dec. 17 in Allen County were equally concerned about the livestock industry, global climate change, alternative fuels and the impact each will have on the future of grains.
Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Policy Directions, said the success or failure of livestock farmers “is” the future of grain farming.
“It’s a very simple equation: Without agriculture, there is no feed industry, without a feed industry there is no need for you,” he said. “That will ripple back to you in a heartbeat. There will simply be no market for what you do.”
Kopperud and media strategist Alan Melamed congratulated Ohioans for the November passage of state Issue 2, creating the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board and pre-empting policies by activist organizations such as Humane Society of The United States.
Melamed was the lead consultant for Issue 2 and commended Ohioans for passing it by a convincing two-thirds vote. He said there was criticism whether the issue belonged in the state’s constitution, but said it was as important as the other issues being considered.
“We felt that if the Ohio constitution could be used to create four casinos in the state of Ohio, it certainly ought to be there to be used to protect Ohio’s largest industry. It’s a $93 billion industry; that’s worth protecting in the Ohio Constitution,” he said.
But Kopperud and Melamed both said the success of 2009 must be carried into 2010, and into other states, because new battles are surely coming.
“The coalition that was formed in Ohio is unheard of,” Kopperud said. “You have the perfect storm in Ohio. It’s time to create the perfect storm of farmer outrage across the country.”
Melamed predicted a multimillion-dollar campaign by HSUS, and an even bigger need for Ohioans to unite.
Kopperud said the organization’s leader — Wayne Pacelle — was deeply upset by his first major defeat, and also surprised.
“Based on his (Pacelle’s) success, he did not believe that Ohio could (act) as quickly, as effectively and as successfully as it did,” Kopperud said.
He also criticized recent efforts to take tested and approved, safe technology out of the reach of farmers, saying farmers are being “taxed” on what they do, and how well they do it.
He spoke critically about climate change legislation, including the market concept of cap and trade — an effort to reduce emissions by issuing permits, and requiring businesses and farmers to compete for them in order to comply with national standards.
A figure used popularly throughout the day was that cap-and-trade legislation would remove 60 million acres from crop production, with the likelihood that land would be converted to trees, or left untilled.
“That’s a scary preface,” Kopperud said with emotion. “Climate change has to stop. The legislative process has to stop now.”
Addressing farm and rural policy in Washington D.C., Sara Wyant of Agri-Pulse Communications said climate change policy — currently winding through Congress as Waxman-Markey legislation — will have historical implications.
“That bill will probably have more impact on your operations than any other farm bill or piece of legislation you could ever even think of in the last (few) decades,” she said.
Of the roughly 60 million acres to exit production, Wyant figured it would start with marginal land of lesser quality, but would eventually progress to the point of reaching prime farmland. She said with world population expected to grow, 2010 and beyond will require “someone who is going to be a champion on feeding the world.”
She predicted 2010 to be “an interesting year to watch,” with the likelihood more Republicans will be elected to office in 2010.
Ohio State University Economist Matt Roberts said the corn market will be in greater demand in 2010, with a global need for another 500 million to 1 billion bushels to meet demand.
He said farmers have two choices, increase yield per acre or grow more acres, because prices will rise due to demand for food, and for ethanol.
Mid-day, farmers watched telecast presentations from the Ohio Soybean Association, Ohio Corn Growers Association, and Ohio Wheat Growers Association. American Soybean Association introduced its new president, Rob Joslin, a grain farmer from Shelby, Ohio.
The symposium also recognized retiring Ohio State University agronomist Jim Beuerlein, for a lifetime of service to the soybean industry.
Multiple legislators were recognized for their efforts to promote biofuel and bioproduct legislation, and for their support of Issue 2 and its campaign. Legislator of the Year award went to Ohio Sen. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, a grain farmer himself.
He spoke briefly about the state’s accomplishments with Issue 2, saying farmers are “under attack” by activists.
Presentations from the all-day symposium will soon be available online, at www.ohiograinfarmerssymposium.org.