|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) hosted a discussion forum at the Ohio Statehouse to listen to farmers and consumers voice their concerns and recommendations about drafting the next farm bill.
The forum was part of a series of listening sessions the National Farmers Union is hosting across the country, according to OFU President Joe Logan.
“The NFU has embarked on a series of listening sessions to pick up where the secretary of agriculture’s listening sessions left off,” Logan said. “When the secretary had his listening sessions, we heard a great deal from the agribusiness interests and from the commodity specific groups.
“We didn’t hear as much from individual farmers because of the two-minute limit that was placed on producers.”
OFU has been hearing a lot of grousing ever since from producers who didn’t have an opportunity to be heard, Logan said.
At the forum, OFU leaders said they heard valuable comments from producers, grain, livestock and conservation interests and nutrition program representatives.
“The nutrition programs make up about half of the USDA budget so that’s an important consideration,” Logan said.
People were concerned about the ongoing issue of concentration in agriculture both in marketing and production, Logan said.
“We heard grave concerns about the credit crunch into which farmers are proceeding now,” Logan said. “We had testimony by one farmer who happened to be a 20-year member of a bank board who brought data, which indicated that farmers make on the average of 1.7 percent return on their equity with nothing for their labor.”
Comments came from producers involved in alternative agricultural enterprises, direct farm to market and alternative grass-based dairy production.
“The producers that are looking into direct marketing urged some of that (commodity) support to get moved toward the conservation areas,” Logan said.
“A lot of those producers farm according to some methodologies that would be very much supported by conservation targeted initiatives.”
There were also admonitions that the ODA find some accommodation to allow a willing producer and a willing consumer of raw milk to consummate those transactions, Logan said.
Many people suggested that the conservation security program needed to be expanded and improved, Logan said. They applauded the EQIP program and the benefits accrued from that.
“There were great concerns about the growing lack of transparency in the marketplace and apparent misbehavior as indicated by the growth of bases especially in wheat that we saw this year,” Logan said. “Our farmers noticed that the wheat bases this year had climbed up to between 70 cents and in excess of $1. That’s something we had not seen before.”
The concern was about the difference between the commodity exchange price for wheat and the amount actually paid to the farmer, and the potential for market manipulation, Logan said.
Speakers at the event included Logan, NFU President Tom Buis, farm policy expert Ron de Yong, Reps. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Strickland (D-Ohio). The office of Senator Mike DeWine (D-Ohio) was also represented.
“Our organization’s strength is drawn from the fact that our policy comes from listening to real farmers, because they know what is best for rural America,” said Buis.
OFU will present the comments heard at the listening sessions to members of Congress in Washington, D.C. during the NFU Fly-In in September.
Logan concluded, “Farmers Union is committed to getting out the rest of the story regarding the important issues included in the farm bill including keeping farmers on the land, conservation, rural development and nutrition programs.”
This farm news was published in the August 23, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.