WASHINGTON, D.C. — The agenda was pretty clear for Ohio Farm Bureau Federation county presidents and vice presidents who traveled to Washington D.C. March 15-17. Their goal was to let legislators know what was on their minds.
The topics on their lists ranged from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to the farm bill and a bill concerning genetically modified organisms in food. The groups even found time to talk to their congressmen about issues impacting farmers in their individual areas.
Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, told the group of Farm Bureau leaders that the budget is one of the biggest issues and could determine whether there is another farm bill.
“We have got to cut spending,” said Johnson.
Johnson said one of the ways he thinks the budget can be cut is in the mandated spending area, but that takes changes in the law and he isn’t so confident that will happen.
Tuscarawas County dairy farmer Jim Rowe told Johnson that the dairy provision in the current farm bill is not working for dairymen. Rowe told Johnson that the dairy industry is not making money, even with the low grain prices. He said he has been milking cows since he graduated college in 1973 and has been able to make money every year, even in 2009, but that was not the case in 2015.
He said the feedgrain prices may be low, but other inputs have increased while the milk check has decreased.
“The vehicle in the farm bill is not working,” said Rowe, and asked that Johnson’s office examine the dairy side of the farm bill and come up with another plan in the next farm bill if possible.
Johnson said he supports a federal law when it comes to GMOs and labeling.
He was co-sponsor on the bill that passed in the House, that would have made a voluntary label regarding GMOs on food products.
Johnson said he knows something needs done but he will wait to see what happens in conference if, and when, the U.S. Senate finally passes its version.
Mahoning and Trumbull county OFBF presidents visited the office of Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who said he is cautious about the issue of GMO labeling. Ryan supports a federal label, but he wants a balance; he wants transparency, but he also wants consumers to know what is in their food.
Mahoning County OFBF President Barbara Biery made it clear that OFBF doesn’t feel the GMO label should be a warning.
“We want it to be beneficial to the consumer and not detrimental to the farmer,” said Biery.
Mahoning and Trumbull county volunteer-leaders also talked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and tried to explain how exports are important to Ohio farmers, since one acre out of every three goes across the world. However, Ryan is opposed to the TPP because it creates an unfair playing field for manufacturing.
Trumbull County Farm Bureau President Mary Smallreed urged Ryan to stay on top of the trade agreements and advocate for free trade.
Another group of presidents met with Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio,who represents the fourth district, which stretches from Lake Erie to the middle of the state and is considered one of the largest agricultural districts in the state.
Auglaize County OFBF President John Limbert asked the support of Environmental Quality Incentives Program or EQIP funds. EQIP is a cost share program many farmers use to build conservation projects on their farm. The presidents said the funding is necessary for projects like fencing to keep animals out of streams and manure storage facilities. The group of presidents explained that without the cost share program, many projects would be impossible.
Another program the county presidents brought up was the H-2A program, which is popular in Jordan’s district. The H-2A program is a temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
Sandusky County OFBF President Jerry Cunningham said the program needs a little work. He explained that one farmer’s workers showed up two weeks late because the computer system was down and the farmer almost lost his entire cucumber crop because of it. Meanwhile, the farmer had to continue to pay for food and housing for the workers for two weeks but they were stuck at the border and couldn’t work.
“We just want you to know the H-2A program needs some work,” said Cunningham.
The group also discussed the Waters of the United States plan under the Clean Water Act and the TPP, and made it clear that the majority of their concerns involve overregulation when it comes to the federal government. The group acknowledged that Jordan is known for not wanting a big government, so they feel there is a common ground.
“We understand and are in agreement that we don’t want a big government,” said Logan County OFBF President Korie Slemmons.
The group did point out that without ways to pay for the enforcement of the regulations, the efforts are wasted.
**To read more about the GMO labeling fight in Washington, check out this story: http://www.farmanddairy.com/news/gmo-labeling-legislation-vote-fails-in-the-u-s-senate/322518.html***
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