Ohio Farm Bureau debates raw milk position


SALEM, Ohio – “We oppose the sale of raw milk direct to consumers.”
Well, sort of. And then again, not really.
More than 300 farmer-members voted last week to strike that language from Ohio Farm Bureau legislative policy, but then introduced new policy that strengthens the organization’s stance on the issue to take food safety into consideration.
No, and then yes. Cheers and applause rippled across the Ohio Farm Bureau delegate body last week when 300-plus farmer-members voted to delete the statement from state policy and turn support for raw milk sales 180 degrees from the controversial policy set last year.
But it wasn’t a clear-cut decision. A voice vote, typically used by delegates to direct state policy, had the yeas and nays sounding almost even. Delegates resorted to electronic handheld voting devices, and even then, the vote was 50/50. But pure numbers won the vote, 158-155.
Arguments. Thomas Marshall, a delegate from Preble County, where the idea to strike the opposition from state policy originated, said he felt the Farm Bureau should take a more neutral stance on the issue.
He also said the Farm Bureau should take a step back and look at its entire policy, which supports niche markets for agricultural products.
“With this statement, you’re very contradictory in your policy book. We feel raw milk is a niche market,” he said.
“It’s wrong to oppose the opportunity to market [a product] and you shouldn’t penalize hardworking people for trying,” he said.
Others, like Wayne County’s Will Moore, thought the old policy was “sound” and that the Farm Bureau should “stick with it.”
“We’ve all seen this issue debated over the years. There’s no reason to change it now,” he said.
The amended wording, which asks for regulations to be set to ensure the highest level of food safety and proposed by Morrow County delegates, passed 258-62.
Not forgotten. The rbST issue also crept onto the delegate floor, but only for a quick appearance.
A new subsection of policy was added prior to the annual meeting, and delegates voted to include wording that would “oppose all use of false and misleading labels, promotional materials and other advertising for food products.”
The delegates also asked to add wording to policy that would let ODA require all food labelers to substantiate their claims through sound scientific testing, and to differentiate between claims and ingredients on a label.
Another section of policy was tacked on to support OFBF intervening if a major retailer attempted to close a market to producers and violated sound science or yielded to special interest.
“We’re willing to fight the fight, but we could use some [of your] help with ideas,” Farm Bureau president Bob Peterson said.
Animal agriculture. Geauga County’s Gerald Mitchell offered a policy to help animal agriculture and farmers under attack by animal rights groups.
Though there was no discussion on the matter, delegates passed the policy to work to “educate legislators on the dire consequences of supporting organizations against animal agriculture whose objectives are abolition of animal agriculture, conversion of the U.S. population to a plant-based diet, and total animal liberation.”
Another policy out of Wayne County supported creating a federal law to “differentiate between livestock and companion animals regarding statutes governing animal cruelty.”
The proposed policy also suggested “livestock producers following recognized best management practices should have protection under animal cruelty laws for those activities.”
Other policy. Delegates voted to reverse the Farm Bureau’s opposition to casino gambling in the state, citing the detrimental effects the policy has on the equine industry.
Lively discussions debated the Farm Bureau’s stance on Ohio’s deer population and ways to control and reduce it to 250,000 head, and on which side of the road is best to situate mail and newspaper boxes to ease equipment and tractor travel.
Other policies included supporting landowner compensation for damages as a result of longwall mining; opposing end dumping as a form of mine reclamation; and changes to the way the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) is applied to unincorporated farms.
Elections. Delegates re-elected Bob Peterson president of the Farm Bureau board. He also was re-elected to represent Clinton, Greene, Fayette and Warren counties.
Brent Porteus of Coshocton was re-elected first vice president, and Steve Hirsch of Chillicothe was re-elected as treasurer.
Hirsch was also re-elected to represent Fairfield, Hocking, Pickaway and Ross counties.
Others re-elected to serve were Kim Davis, Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson and Tuscarawas counties; Ellen Joslin, Auglaize, Logan, Mercer and Shelby counties; Mike Schumm, Allen, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert counties; Andra Troyer, southwest women’s trustee; and Keith Truckor, Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties.
New additions to the board are Craig Adams of Leesburg, to represent Adams, Brown, Clermont and Highland counties; and Paul Harrison of Fostoria to represent Hancock, Hardin, Seneca and Wyandot counties.
(Reporter Andrea Zippay welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at azippay@farmanddairy.com.)

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