COLUMBUS — Debate on how the Ohio Farmers Union may react to a federal “impaired” designation for the western basin of Lake Erie and the potential to further limit agricultural nutrients in the Maumee River watershed dominated the OFU’s policy deliberations at its annual convention, Jan. 26-27.
Special programming this year focused on young and beginning farmers and state Rep. Kathleen Clyde, D-Kent, was honored as legislator of the year.
“Kathleen Clyde served for several years on the House Agriculture Committee and was always a common sense voice for family farmers and just as importantly, Ohio’s consumers,” OFU President Joe Logan said.
“Rep. Clyde’s determination on fair elections and ending gerrymandering in Ohio’s legislative districts has kept our attention since she left the ag committee.”
OFU passed two special orders of business, or policy priorities, for 2018 concerning Lake Erie water quality and nutrient management.
The first, put forth by the Wood County Farmers Union, states that OFU will cooperate with federal and state officials who may declare the open waters of the western basin ‘impaired’ — a federal designation that would lead to the establishment of Total Maximum Daily Loads for nutrients like phosphorous emitted from watersheds draining into Lake Erie.
More specifically on the matter of nutrient management in impaired watersheds, OFU passed another policy proposal calling for “state government action that would prescribe that applications of fertilizer, including manure, in any impaired watershed, would be applied at a rate no higher than the agronomic rate” — or the amount required to grow a crop.
OFU is also continuing its policy requests of Ohio state government and the federal government to rein what it calls “the unchecked, opaque commodity checkoff programs.”
When farmers take livestock, corn, soybeans and many other commodities to market, they pay a government-required fee per head or bushel of the commodity. These dollars were intended when legislation first moved through Congress decades ago to support state and federal marketing and research efforts in those commodities.
“When Farmers Union first supported the establishment of commodity checkoffs in the 1980s, the boards were not dominated by foreign and corporate interests and the original governance of the checkoff funds was more influenced by family farmers,” Logan said.
He said that since the checkoff boards have allowed the participation of importers and processors in their decision-making, they have often worked against independent family farmers in the marketplace.
The policy passed at OFU this year states: “… federal and state checkoff funds be paid directly to the appropriate federal or state treasury and then be audited by the corresponding federal or state auditing agency.”
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