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Farm bill, renewable fuels front NFU lobbying efforts
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

OTTAWA, Ohio — The extension of the 2002 farm bill, emergency disaster aid for producers who have suffered from devastating weather and the promotion and production of renewable fuels were key issues for the hundreds of farmers from Ohio and around the country who took part in the National Farmers Union’s annual Fly-In to the nation’s capital recently.

“We were in Washington, D.C. to ask our representatives to stand up for Ohio farmers and producers across the country that have been plagued by natural disasters and exploding fuel prices,” said Ohio Farmers Union (OFU) President Joe Logan. “Our primary issue was disaster aid. In Ohio we’re looking at a bumper crop this year for corn and soybeans and our wheat crop was good. Despite that, there are 37 counties in Ohio that have been declared disaster areas.

He said the OFU was lobbying to help growers and ranchers from the West.

“But the worst is the folks out in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, those that are putting up with second, third, fourth sometimes fifth years of drought,” Logan said. “Ohio has had some disaster, but other states were very badly hit so it was a serious issue. “Many Oklahoma and Texas farmers lost all their forage and had to liquidate their herds as a result.” The farm bill was another issue of concern.

“Our position, just like the position of Farm Bureau and others is that we believe that the current farm bill needs to be extended for a year,” Logan said.

“We know the current farm bill needs a lot of work; too high a proportion of the payments go to too few producers,” he said. “There are other fundamental problems with the current farm bill but we don’t feel that the environment is suitable now for negotiating and accepting a new formula at this point.”

Renewable fuels was the third issue. There is support for this because it’s a popular issue that makes sense to the American people, to Congress and is helpful to ag policy, Logan said.

“What’s a little tricky is to make sure that it’s done properly,” he added. “We feel that how the renewable fuels industry is organized can make all the difference.”

Venture capital is coming in from all around the world to build ethanol and biodiesel facilities in the United States, Logan said. When the renewable fuel industry first started up it was almost all done by local farmers and rural communities.

Of the 43 plants currently under construction in this country only two of them are under local ownership.

Logan said he considered that a worrisome trend.

The last issue was a recent development. The National Farmers Union in conjunction with the North Dakota Farmers Union has just approved a carbon sequestration banking system.

“We have established rates that we can sign farmers up to contracts in western Ohio and most of Indiana to get carbon credits for maintaining no-till systems, pasture grazing systems, renewable forestry initiatives, and for having methane digesters on their livestock facilities,” Logan said.

Farmers Union, through the Chicago Climate Exchange, can write contracts and capture value for farmers. Part of Ohio has been approved for rates of carbon sequestration.

“Farmers can put money in their pocket for practices they’re doing,” Logan said.

“The money comes from utility companies and companies that are emitting CO2 higher that they can afford to do; there are penalties for that. Those companies are buying carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange to allow them to continue with their existing techniques.

This farm news was published in the Sept. 27, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

9/27/2006