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Ohio Farm Bureau lobbies Congress on farm bill, death taxes and energy
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

HARTVILLE, Ohio — The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) bent the ears of a few federal lawmakers regarding issues they feel are crucial to agriculture.

More than 70 Ohio county OFBF presidents traveled to the nation’s capitol to discuss farm issues with lawmakers. On their return, First Vice President Jeff Zellers, talked about the trip.

“The main four topics that we talked about were the farm bill, estate taxes, energy - we hit the message home that it’s not just about diesel fuel and gasoline, it’s about all the inputs that the rising cost of energy are having on our cost of production - and immigration,” Zellers said. “The legislators’ responses varied greatly.”

Concerning the 2002 farm bill, the presidents discussed the impact that the World Trade Organization (WTO) or all trade talks have on the current farm bill and future farm bills, he said.

OFBF policy is to complete the term of the 2002 farm bill, while recognizing the budget climate and the impact of energy costs. Many groups including some of the nontraditional program crops would like to participate in the farm bill, Zellers said. Legislators recognized the need for the farm bill, but the complexity of the WTO negotiations make that a difficult challenge, Zellers said.

In discussing energy, Zellers said there is a lot of talk about renewable fuels, which will reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

“But what are we doing from a regulatory standpoint?” he said. “We haven’t built a new refinery in how many years and the regulatory arena to get that done is so cumbersome.”

“Is there true benefit to every one of those regulations? - if not, can we back some of them off,” Zellers said. “Can we increase that refining capacity? Finally, we’ve got vast reserves of oil in this country that we’re not tapping into.”

“I spoke to several of the groups and the point I made was, all of us are complaining to each other about energy,” Zellers said.

“I challenged our folks who were there, ‘How many of you wrote a letter? How many of you have contacted your congressional office and hammered on them about why have we let this happen?’” Another topic was estate taxes. Farm Bureau has always been for the elimination of that tax, Zellers said.

“Too many untimely deaths have caused businesses (small businesses and farms) to have to liquidate assets that are part of their business to pay estate tax,” Zellers said.

Some legislators agreed with complete elimination, some were in favor of an $8 to $10 million exemption.

On Immigration, the message has always been that the United States needs to secure its borders. OFBF agreed.

“We can’t reward the people that are here illegally by giving them citizenship or some type of amnesty,” Zellers said.

“There’s now estimated to be 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. Many of them are doing jobs that we don’t have enough people to do,” Zellers said.

Many of those people have been here long enough to have children and grandchildren who are U.S. citizens, Zellers explained.

Those people are not going to go away so this country needs a guest worker program. Immigrants need to be identified.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” Zellers said. “A very emotional issue.”

This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.

3/22/2006