By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was no surprise that the farm bill was the main issue when U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) had his annual Farm Forum with state farm leaders to discuss Ohio’s agriculture industry.
“I look forward to working with the agricultural community to make sure the farm bill meets the needs of Ohio’s farmers and ranchers,” Voinovich said. “I’m eager to see a bill that provides a strong safety-net for farmers, beneficial conservation programs, and more investment in energy independence through renewable fuel development and research.”
Voinovich encouraged farm leaders to start talking to each other to develop some consensus on some of the things that are going to be coming up in the farm bill.
The general opinion is that the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and the Ohio Farmers Union are satisfied with the current price and income support policies and would like to see them extended for a year, Voinovich said.
However, others believe that agricultural policies are ripe for more fundamental reforms, budgetary equity environmental and other things.
“I think the main issue is, how do we get a consensus among our folks in Ohio on what it is that should be in this farm bill that deals with things that are specifically Ohio-oriented,” Voinovich said.
Another topic the farm leaders considered was ethanol. Voinovich said he has been a great supporter of ethanol; six ethanol refineries are being built in Ohio and another six to eight more are on the list. Yet there is concern among livestock people that this is driving up their cost of feed.
There were differences of opinion on that topic as well as international trade. Some thought the trade situation was wonderful while others were disappointed. Livestock producers felt they were being deliberately shut out of some countries such as Japan, that they were using BSI as an excuse.
“We got into the issue of immigration policy,” Voinovich said.
He has been a supporter of AgJOBS which would overhaul the guest worker program and provide for a legal guest worker program.
“It’s getting difficult for some of them (producers) to stay in business ... because they need those workers and those workers have dried up because of the controversy over this immigration policy,” Voinovich said.
What role agriculture will play in achieving energy independence was also discussed. Some were enthusiastic about the 25x’25 idea which said 25 percent of all energy in this country will be generated through agriculture by the year 2025; others questioned what that really meant for prices, long term.
Concerning interstate shipment of meat, Voinovich said that he has been working on that since he was the governor of Ohio.
“State-inspected meat is precluded from going into the marketplace because they claim that it’s not up to federal guidelines,” he said. “Fact of the matter is in Ohio I believe we surpass the federal government. So we’re going to try and see if we can’t get that in the farm bill.”
Over all, Voinovich said it “was a wonderful meeting” but he emphasized the need for agreement among Ohio farmers.
“The thing I was impressed with is that there were some different perspectives there,” he said. “It would be good if you got in a room and talked to each other so that we have a consensus of how we should respond in Washington because if one groups says one thing and another something else, usually nothing happens.”
This farm news was published in the March 28, 2007 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.