Washington trip positive experience for Ohio farmer leaders
By GARY BROCK
They came from all parts of Ohio from all walks of life. But they all shared one thing in common — agriculture.
More than 80 presidents or vice presidents of county branches of the Ohio Farm Bureau traveled in March to Washington D.C. for the annual legislative meeting with federal lawmakers, national Farm Bureau officials and agriculture experts.
The three-day meeting was aimed at both giving input to the federal officials from local farm bureau representatives and hearing from Ohio’s lawmakers about what they are doing for Ohio’s farmers.
And in a year when Ohio Farm Bureau representatives had a lot of questions about agriculture, those interviewed by ACRES of Southwest Ohio said they were pleased by what they heard.
“I learned more about our elected representatives and how they feel about agriculture issues than anything else,” said Adams County Farm Bureau vice president Emilee Arthur. This was her first trip to Washington D.C. for the legislative meetings, and she said she was impressed by how much attention the Farm Bureau representatives were given by the Washington representatives, and how much they listened to what the local farm representatives had to say.
She said she was very interested in the stalled federal Farm Bill and what officials had to tell them about it.
“(House Speaker John) Boehner promised us that we would have a farm bill this year, so I was very happy to hear that,” said Nathan Brown, Highland County Farm Bureau vice president.
Like Arthur, this was Brown’s first trip to Washington D.C. for the conference. “It was a very humbling experience for me. Especially humbling because these elected officials were there to listen to us, to hear and discuss the issues we wanted to talk about.”
Brown said he was impressed by the fact that these elected representatives like Boehner, Paul Ryan and others “took the time out of their busy schedules to meet with us.”
Brown, who farms about 900 acres in Highland County, said it was a great experience to talk farm issues in Washington.
Fayette County Farm Bureau President Andy Dill said the three-day conference was “packed” with meetings and discussions. He also expressed pleasure at how many Ohio and national elected Congressmen and Senators met with them.
“We had a chance to meet with Mike Turner (new 10th District Congressman representing part of Fayette County), and he seems very agriculture-friendly. He is aware of the importance of agriculture in his district,” Dill said.
Dill also was optimistic about the chances of the Farm Bill passing this year. “The people in Washington know it is needed.”
This was the second time Brown County Farm Bureau President Chris Rogers has attended the annual conference in Washington. What he noticed most about the event “was that this time everyone was very upbeat. There was a very positive feeling from all of the legislators.”
Rogers added that he was surprised at how positive everyone was about passage of a Farm Bill this year. “They were very positive about that,” he said.
He was also impressed by new Congressman Dr. Brad Wenstrup. “It was good to see that he was very interested in our farming issues.”
Butch Schappacher, Warren County Farm Bureau president, said he has gone to several of the annual farm Bureau trips to Washington over the years. “It is really good to see that we (farmers) really mean something to the legislators, and that the farm Bureau plays an important role in getting our message out. Meetings like this give us a chance to be heard and to get our message out,” he said.
He said he was also impressed by his local representative, Congressman Dr. Wenstrup, who talked to the group about health care costs and insurance companies. “The health care system is really screwed up,” he said.
Regarding the Farm Bill, Schappacher said the farmers in attendance were pretty much in agreement that funding for farmers will be cut. But no one knows how much. “America’s farmers just need the safety net.”
The county farm bureau representatives met with the Food and Drug Administration regarding food safety issues. They then met with legislators on Capital Hill.
At the annual Ohio Farm Bureau Legislative Forum. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs hosted with guest U.S. Rep. John Boehner, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, U.S. Rep. Wenstrup, U.S. Rep. David Joyce, and U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, as well as Rep. Turner and Rep. Steve Chabot.
On the final day of the conference, the bureau representatives met with both Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Rob Portman to discuss farm issues.
(Gary Brock is editor of ACRES of Southwest Ohio.)