By Susan Crowell / Editor
COLUMBUS — As it gears up for its 100th anniversary in 2019, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation has refocused its mission and outlined six priorities in a two-year strategic plan that starts in 2018.
More than 350 voting delegates gathered in Columbus Dec. 7-8 for the farm organization’s annual meeting and policy development sessions. Another 300 members and guests also attended the event.
The event’s theme, “Together with farmers,” was part of a larger branding effort, complete with website and the new mission statement, to position the state Farm Bureau as a cornerstone for a stronger Ohio.
The mission statement — “Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.” — was approved by the OFBF board earlier this year.
During the meeting, Executive Vice President Adam Sharp outlined the strategic plan and its goals: advocacy, membership, communication, financial strength, strategic partnerships and organizational excellence.
“You want us watching your back while you’re in the fields,” Sharp said of the organization’s monitoring of legislation, policies and rulings that impact agriculture.
Sharp emphasized the organization’s role in building ag unity, because it crosses commodity boundaries, and said Ohio Farm Bureau has been increasing activities with other ag partners.
“Nobody is better situated — nobody can do this, other than Farm Bureau,” he told delegates.
“We have to be looking out for agriculture as a whole,” Sharp said, “We’re the ones bringing people together. Nobody else can do it. Only Farm Bureau.”
Sharp was blunt that the farm group wants to grow certain segments of its membership, specifically active members. OFBF grew those members 5 percent last year and is on target to increase active members another 5% this year.
Gross dues income for the first 10 months of 2017 was nearly $8.9 million.
Delegates reviewed more than 100 pages of existing and proposed state policies, which guides the organization’s legislative efforts.
Delegates called for uniform state and federal nutrient applications standards that differentiate between agronomic, economic and environmental thresholds. They also support regulatory review that uses sound science to find water quality solutions that are compatible with productive food production.
Also among the proposals, they voted to support beginning farmers and programs that provide incentives for persons who sell land, facilities, machinery, livestock and other assets to beginning farmers.
The organization also strengthened its commitment to limiting the power of eminent domain.
Delegates also reaffirmed their work in local communities to prevent and treat drug addiction and will seek national policy to curtail the over-prescription of opioids.
On national policy issues, OFBF members strongly supported crop insurance and continuation of the harvest price option. They also addressed a vaccine bank for livestock, milk labeling and protection of pollinator habitat.
Frank Burkett III of Massillon was re-elected OFBF president. This will be his second full term as president.
Burkett has been on the state board since 2007 representing members from Columbiana, Mahoning, Portage and Stark counties. With three uncles, Burkett co-owns and manages Clardale Farms, Inc., a dairy and crop farm near Canal Fulton.
Bill Patterson of Geauga County was re-elected first vice president, and Cy Prettyman of New Bloomington was re-elected treasurer.
Six Ohio Farm Bureau trustees were re-elected at this year’s annual meeting: Al DiVencenzo, of Grafton, representing Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties; Roger Baker, of Wooster, representing Ashland, Medina, Summit and Wayne counties; Katherine Harrison, Canal Winchester, representing Delaware, Franklin, Madison and Union counties; Bill Waddle, of Springfield, representing Champaign, Clark, Darke and Miami counties; Al Miller, of Marietta, representing Belmont, Monroe, Noble and Washington counties; and Lane Osswald, of Eldorado, representing Butler, Hamilton, Montgomery and Preble counties.
Jenny Cox, of Dresden, was elected southeast regional trustee, succeeding Patty DeBruin, of Millersport, who chose not to seek re-election.
Cox and her husband, Jared, own Cox Seed Sales, sell crop insurance and raise 1.5 acres of hops which they sell to local breweries in Muskingum County. They also are part of Cox Brothers Farm, where they raise corn, soybeans and wheat in Muskingum and Coshocton counties.
The Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Agricultural Professionals also elected their leaders for 2018. Wes and Brandi Montgomery of Fayette County were elected chair couple, Dustin and Casey Converse of Union County were elected co-chairs, and Liza Musselman of Pickaway County was elected secretary.
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