Taking the farm to Washington DC

By Larry S. Moore

March 18, 2014

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation county presidents and invited guests traveled to DC to take their message of agriculture to The Hill. The farm bill has passed and the votes reported. A vote against the farm bill didn’t automatically mean that an elected official doesn’t like farmers - or like to eat.

Conversely a vote for the farm bill doesn’t mean that the official understands the needs of American agriculture. So a grass roots effort to take the message to DC is critical to the nation’s farmers. Elected officials have the numbers and understand the huge economic impact of agriculture and agri-business. They trumpet the fact that the United States feeds the world. How effective Congress is at translating the numbers into good farm policy is another question. The county presidents learned a lot and carried their message well.

Greene County Farm Bureau President Kent Campbell explained, “We need to take the voice of agriculture from Ohio to Washington DC. It’s important to keep our issues and presence in front of our elected representatives. We are very fortunate to have legislators who understand our issues and are our proponents in Washington. They listen to our concerns. This trip put the face of the local farmer in front of the Congressmen and on our issues.”

The schedule of events was condensed into two days due to flight cancellations caused by the latest winter storm. One of the most important and largest briefings was the Congressional agriculture forum.

The forum was the result of a lot of hard work by Representative Bob Gibbs (Ohio 7th District) who arranged for the presentations and served as moderator. Congressman Gibbs knows the agriculture community and issues well. Prior to serving in the Ohio House and being elected to Congress he was a county farm bureau president. The OFBF members heard briefings by a number of Congressmen on a variety of topics impacting agriculture.

The presidents had appointments and made stops to visit their Congressman. The Greene County contingent spent some time with Congressman Mike Turner reviewing the issue. Congressman Turner commented, “It was a pleasure to meet with the Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents in Washington this week.

Our agriculture community not only grows important crops, but also provides jobs and capital that are essential to our economy. That is why I am proud to have supported the Farm Bill that was signed into law this year. I look forward to continuing to work with all the County Farm Presidents to help grow farming jobs and aid the growth of the farming industry.”

The US Department of Agriculture, Census of Agriculture reports that the average age of all U.S. principal farm operators is approximately 53 years. That age has only slightly increased since 1974, however more than 26 percent of the operators are now 65 or older.

At the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of principal operators with average ages of less than 35 years has been declining since 1982, when it was 15.9 percent, and only 5.8 percent in 2002. The numbers present a potential crisis in agriculture if there are few young farmers.

Campbell offers some words of encouragement said, “We are seeing younger farmers involved in the Greene County Farm Bureau and younger leaders on our board. It’s critical to the future of farming to have more younger people involved. It is also no longer a male dominated occupation. Women are more involved and many actually heading farm operations. We’ve seen an increase in the number of women who are now county farm bureau presidents. They have a strong voice for agriculture. The opportunities for women in agri-business are wide open.”

Brandon Haselman, Putnam County Farm Bureau President, is one of the younger county presidents. He explains his involvement in farm bureau, “It is hard to get young people involved. We’ve got to have a voice in what happens. We need a common voice to our elected officials.

Grassroots participation is very important. The Ohio Farm Bureau gives us that grassroots connection and a common voice. I really encourage young farmers to get involved with OFBF. I understand the time constraints but you have to give some time and give back. The government regulations will tell us how to farm. We have to stand up for what is right.”

Campbell concludes, “Our voice counts in DC. Your opinion can make a difference. Grassroots efforts by people who love agriculture will get results.”

Larry Moore is a Greene County resident and local outdoors columnist.