During the 83rd Annual Ohio Farmers Union Convention held recently in Columbus, Ohio, a two-day event, delegates worked to update their policies on matters such as trying to remedy the dramatic increases in taxes on farmland and instituting a process for compiling data on the density of livestock operations within Ohio’s watersheds. Other areas of discussion and policy-making included: maintaining a link between ag policy and public nutrition in the next federal Farm Bill, placing former Ohio Department of Corrections farmland into a “Community Land Trust” for use by young farmers with limited resources, making sure that any replacement of the Affordable Care Act assures comparable or improved health insurance coverage, re-visiting the nation’s dairy policy and pricing structure, and, once again, calling for a moratorium on using Class II injection wells to dispose of fracking and other oil and gas operations’ wastewater (and asking for adoption of adequate standards for Class I injection wells). These policy stances can now be used when lobbying the state legislature and serve as a basis for Ohio Farmers Union’s perspective on formatting policy at the national level.
Local delegate participants from Darke County included Todd and Amy Rhoades, Jim Zumbrink, Duane Shields, Ted and Holly Finnarn, Alison Finnarn, Joe Schmitz and Youth Delegate, Tom Schmitz. The delegates were enlightened on Friday evening with an address delivered by Barbara Patterson, Government Relations Director of the National Farmers Union and a video presentation by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Joseph L. Schiavoni, Ohio Senator from the 33rd District and also the Senate Minority Leader, was awarded the Legislator of the Year Award. Sen. Schiavoni spoke about his legislation that would hold charter schools accountable to taxpayers, SB 39, which is similar to his widely-supported bill, SB 398, which received hearings but was never voted on in the 131st Assembly. On Saturday, Ohio Senator Cliff Hite spoke to those attending concerning the dramatic increase in farmland and woodland taxes (200-600% in recent years) and his efforts in the Senate to look at the Current Agricultural Use Valuation which is used to figure the tax rate. The Federal Reserve interest rate, which has been very low since 2011, has driven this unforeseen consequence in the farm taxes and its input into the valuation needs to be re-visited. Fred Yoder, a member of Donald Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, also spoke on Saturday and David Drake, Acting State Executive Director of the USDA attended, but could not speak due to the gag order that was imposed recently.