Ohio farmers advocate on the Hill

Ohio Farm Bureau presidents take their 72nd trip to D.C. to discuss agricultural policy

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Ohio Farm Bureau members
Ohio Farm Bureau members meet with Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) to talk farm bill, NAFTA, broadband and extension funding. (Katy Mumaw photo)

WASHINGTON — “Eight percent of U.S. labor supply is on hold, depending on trade and what happens with NAFTA,” said Veronica Nigh, economist with American Farm Bureau Federation.

“The longer you stay out of the markets, the harder it is to get back in the game,” she said referring to key trade agreements and the recent tariff announcement. “The EU has already put out a list of products they would put tariffs on. Who knows who will share their list next.”

Rep. Andy Harris (R-M.D.) also shared his views on recent tariffs. “It can make you nervous, and I think we all feel that. We don’t want a trade war, no one benefits from that.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) talks about tariffs 

As talk of tariffs on aluminum and steel swirled Washington last week, Ohio Farm Bureau members were there to learn and advocate. Every speech, every meeting between Ohio farmers and congressional leaders touched on the farm bill, trade and broadband access and water quality.

NAFTA

Trade impacts farmers at the national level down to each local grower. As the No. 1 industry in Ohio, food and agriculture represent $105 billion to the state’s economy. The Ohio Farm Bureau supports modernization and improvements to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Nigh, who has been with AFBF for seven years, shared that Ohio’s two largest trading partners are Canada and Mexico, respectively.

Trade and investment with Canada supports 308,700 jobs in Ohio and there are more than 178,000 jobs in Ohio that depend on trade with Mexico, she said.

“Up until two weeks ago we would say withdraw (from NAFTA) was nonexistent. With this rising tide and administration turnover, it is concerning.”

In the 15 congressional visits farm bureau members made, they asked for the members of Congress to oppose withdrawing from NAFTA or drastic changes that would negatively impact Ohio farms, businesses and workers. The Ohio volunteers also asked for legislators  to support modernization and improvements to NAFTA, keeping a “do no harm” to U.S. food and agriculture approach.

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Ohio Farm Bureau talks ag policy in D.C.

Farm bill

The farm bill was continually discussed among the politicians, but with mostly rumor not fact.

Rep. Bob Gibbs said he, and his team, had submitted their requests for the farm bill about a month ago, but they have not heard if they got into the bill because the draft has not been released.

Crop insurance, conservation programs and food assistance are on the table.

The Congressional Budget’s Office’s June 2017 baseline estimates that the 2014 Farm Bill has cost far less than projected. According to their office, the bill will spend $78 billion less, while mandatory federal spending outside the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction has risen over the same time period.

With farm income down 46 percent from three years ago, it would be damaging for the 2018 Farm Bill to have a reduction in funding, said Jack Irwin, OFBF senior director of state and national affairs.

The Ohio Farm Bureau presidents encouraged their elected officials to protect current farm bill spending, maintain unified bill containing nutrition programs and farm programs together, ensure programs are compliant with the World Trade Organization and prioritize top funding priorities as risk management tools, including both federal crop insurance and Title I commodity programs.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), talks about the 2018 Farm Bill.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), shares next steps in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Work requirements

Gibbs shared the work requirements he hopes to see in the farm bill for those benefiting from the federal food assistance program, SNAP.

Gibbs shared the work requirements he hopes to see in the farm bill for those benefiting from the federal food assistance program, SNAP.

Almost every elected official Ohio Farm Bureau presidents met with touched on the opioid epidemic ravishing Ohio.

“One-third of the our citizens have dropped out of the workforce, that is a big, big, number of people living off of those who do work,” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), said. “Like President Franklin Roosevelt said, ‘we can’t let this hand out be a permanent state of mind’”

Johnson has introduced the TEACH to Combat Addiction Act, this act will assist in making sure health professionals have been properly trained to deal with the heroin epidemic and other substance abuse.

Of the 9 million able-bodied men who are not working in the U.S., 47 percent are taking a pain medication daily, and that is self-reported, said, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

In 2000, the U.S. was level with Canada and Europe on opioid usage, he said. “Now we are three to four times higher than them, this death by despair is at historic levels,” he said.

Infrastructure

In addition to the opioid crisis, rural Ohio is at a disadvantage with access to high speed internet.

Andrew Hollenback, who farms in Licking and Knox counties, shared his concerns with broadband access with Gibbs.

“I have a chicken facility that employees six people in southern Knox County,” he said. “When it comes to payroll and paying taxes, it is harder for me to do to — it takes more time without access to broadband internet.”

Gibbs assured the group broadband is part of President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan.

“We shouldn’t have these barriers to the marketplace,” said Gibbs.

Along with transportation, the need for more access to broadband technologies throughout rural Ohio remains a priority to boost the economy and create opportunities for job development and growth, Irwin said.

“The federal government has a role to play, but we hope private and public sector will play a role,” Gibbs said. “We don’t want the government to take over, then we won’t have the innovation needed. We need a balance and assistance from our rural co-ops.”

Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Ohio Farm Bureau members get out the smart phones as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan enters the room.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Rep. Bob Gibbs meets with farmers from his district. They talk about broadband, the farm bill and extension funding.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Rep. Bill Johnson met with members from Ohio's sixth district.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Rep. Bob Gibbs address the farm bureau members.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Bernie Heffelbower, Carroll County, shows Rep. Bill Johnson photos of Carroll County Farm Bureau's anti-drug campaign.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to Ohio, Alabama, Iowa and Missouri Farm Bureau members.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

American Farm Bureau Federation gives Sen. Rob Portman the Golden Plow award.
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Ohio Farm Bureau DC trip

Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents listen to Sen. Rob Portman.

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