|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Immigration reform, renewable fuels, the Farm Bill and BSE were the hot topics during a farm forum hosted by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) in Columbus recently.
Immigration reform comes down to two things, Voinovich said. “First, let’s have a sensible system in place where you can have undocumented workers become documented,” he said.
“That means that they either go home or if they want to be a citizen they must show that they have been working for at least four years in the United States. Then they would have another several more years if they wanted to become citizens of the United States.”
A good piece of legislation came out of the judiciary committee last week, Voinovich said. It has a standard provision where undocumented workers have to show that they’ve had a job for a certain number of years, that they were good employees, that they have been paying their taxes and social security, and that they have no criminal record.
If undocumented workers are shut out of the country, it would cause problems for Ohio agriculture, Voinovich said. There may not be enough workers.
The second issue in immigration reform is the need to seal our borders against illegal immigrants.
“It is a combination of both issues - you can’t have one without the other,” Voinovich said.
As the liaison from the Senate Energy Task Force to the White House, Voinovich is highly involved with renewable fuels, he said.
“We have key provisions for E85 technologies and infrastructure that will maximize ethanol in the United States,” Voinovich said.
As an incentive to oil companies, these provisions include a 30 percent federal income tax credit towards the establishment of an alternative fuel infrastructure.
“Frankly, I think they ought to do it because it’s good for businesses, and it’s something they should do for our country,” Voinovich said.
The United States has eight existing ethanol plants, but it is expanding to 150, Voinovich said. In Ohio, ground has been broken for three ethanol plants.
“But once you produce it and refine it, you’ve got to be able to have the pumps where people can get it,” Voinovich said.
“If you look in Ohio or any other state they’re not really doing that and we need to really light a fire under the oil companies.” The United States must reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East not only for national security but also for economic security, he said.
Concerning the Farm Bill, Voinovich said there’s a lot of discussion right now - but nothing is going to be done about it this year.
“There’s so much on our plate right now, and the Farm Bill is a major undertaking,” he said. “We won’t get to it until next year.”
While in Columbus, Voinovich said he had talked to several commodity groups and the topic of BSE came up.
“We’ve been trying to get the Japanese to free that up; one thing I found out is that it’s hurting the beef people but helping the pork people,” he said.
Part of the problem, Voinovich said, is that the Japanese are raising beef and want to sell that.
“Most folks think the BSE is an excuse they’re using. When you look at their concerns - there is nothing for them to be concerned about right now,” he said.
This farm news was published in the April 12, 2006 issue of Farm World.