Taxes and environmental stewardship will be among the top issues addressed during the 96th annual meeting of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) today in Columbus. There is a significant agenda in the year ahead with key issues including water, CAUV and immigration at the state and federal level.
“How are we going to get it done? Collaboration. We have to work together,” said Jack Fisher, OFBF Executive Vice President. “It is about the collaboration of volunteers and staff working together. Maybe it is time to find some new partners as well. The world is changing and there are new opportunities and new partners.”
OFBF is conducting its annual policy meeting that will set the course for the coming year. None of these issues may be more daunting than the challenges ahead with water quality.
“On Aug. 2, at 2 in the morning the mayor of Toledo said, ‘Don’t drink the water.’ That was a game changer,” Fisher said. “The first thing we did was answer questions, made sure the citizens of Toledo had water and relied on our relationships in the community.”
During the business meeting, 347 delegates representing all of the state’s county Farm Bureaus established the group’s public policy priorities for the coming year. Delegates discussed a variety of state tax issues including the Current Agricultural Use Value program. Other expected policy considerations include agriculture’s relationship with Ohio State University, rural crime, energy development, education and school funding and rural utilities and phone service. Also during the business session, results of a year-long OFBF membership task force study were presented to the delegates, who approved the new membership structure.
In a significant move, the gender was dropped from the Regional Women’s Trustee.
“When the Women’s Trustee position was created decades ago, it offered women a voice on the board that they would have not had otherwise,” said Katherine Harrison, the OFBF District 11 Trustee. “Now we are looking at the fulfillment of what those generations of women did by allowing women to be equally competitive for district trustee roles. By making the regional positions gender neutral, we are showing that women can compete and achieve on all levels of agriculture. Looking at farming and the leadership of our industry, it is amazing to see what women are achieving. There are several women in key leadership positions in Ohio and the American Farm Bureau. There is a diversity of men and women on the state board of trustees, but more important than that is the diversity in agricultural representation including grain, livestock, produce. That is the key component to making sure our board is successful as a diverse group.”
Attendees also heard from OFBF President Steve Hirsch and Nationwide CEO Steve Rasmussen. Individuals were recognized for their contributions to the organization. Top performing county Farm Bureaus were honored and several long-time agricultural leaders were be presented with Distinguished Service Awards.
The second annual Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum was held Dec. 10 in conjunction with OFBF’s annual meeting. The day-long event gave attendees training in leadership and community building as well as provides sessions offering insights into key current affairs.
The Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins visited with OFBF President Steve Hirsch shortly after the opening session of this year’s meeting.
Keith Stimpert is Ohio Farm Bureau’s Senior Vice President of Organization and he gives Ty the details of OFBF’s new membership classifications.
OFBF’s 1st Vice President Frank Burkett also talks about what the new membership classes entail.