By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — More than 800 farmers and supporters gathered for the annual meeting of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF). Delegates established official Ohio Farm Bureau policy, elected officers and honored agricultural leaders.
Water quality, taxation and energy development were top-of-the-list items. The Ohio Turnpike and agricultural education also came up for discussion.
“When you look at what is happening here in Ohio in water quality issues, Ohio farmers across the state want to be part of the solution. We want to make sure we take responsibility for what is going on in the state, as this applies,” said Adam Sharp, OFBF vice president of public policy.
Delegates addressed the challenges of keeping farm nutrients out of the state’s waters by endorsing farmers’ adoption of a management system referred to as 4R, which encourages nutrient applications that are the right fertilizer source at the right rate, time and place, Sharp said.
“Our delegates also reaffirmed that they expect every farmer in the state to have a nutrient management plan so that we’re taking the responsible approach to dealing with our water quality challenges,” he added.
Concerning the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) tax break, the delegates and the OFBF made a statement that they expect lands enrolled in conservation programs to be included in the CAUV program, Sharp said.
“We only raised this issue because there have been several challenges and several court cases this past year questioning that enrollment in those programs,” he said.
“We have been successful at beating back those lawsuits, but there is concern that more will come.”
The delegates also discussed the modernization of the severance tax. Earlier, Gov. John Kasich addressed attendees and said the state’s income tax needs to be reduced so Ohio can be a more competitive state, and that the severance tax needs to be increased, Sharp said. The OFBF delegates said they would oppose the increase in the severance tax if the savings went solely to fund an income tax reduction in the state.
If the state government increases the severance tax, it should consider local government funding, infrastructure needs, local and state economic development and mitigation of negative impacts on the local communities and the environment. Also, regulatory costs associated with energy development should be funded by permits and the severance tax, according to the OFBF.
Delegates also retained the policy that opposes privatization of the Ohio Turnpike, Sharp said. Concerning agricultural education, delegates said a priority was assuring adequate funding for agricultural education in schools and for Ohio State University extension.
Other events at the meeting included the reelection of Steve Hirsch of Chillicothe as president and Sparky Weilnau of Milan as first vice president.
Three leaders in Ohio Agriculture were honored with the Distinguished Service Awards. They were Dave Brandt, conservation activist; Bill Diley, youth leader; and Steve Maurer, public servant. These recognize lifetime contributions to Ohio’s agricultural community and to Farm Bureau.
Brad Heimerl of Johnstown was the winner of the OFBF Discussion Meet.
Other finalists were Christen Clemson of Cortland, Jon Hensler of Jackson and Lynnsey Schemerich of Orient.
Also recognized were the group’s Outstanding Young Farmer, Erik Scott of Georgetown, and its Excellence in Agriculture winner, Greg McGlinch of Versailles. These three men will represent Ohio at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., in January.