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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine talks about the drug epidemic in rural Ohio.

OFBF meets with legislators to convey 2016 policy priorities

Yesterday’s Ohio Farm Bureau 2016 Ag Day at the Capital started on a somber note concerning the dramatic increase in drug addition and activity in rural Ohio in recent years and the life shattering consequences rippling through agricultural communities.

“Our rural communities are getting hit hard from this drug epidemic and it is a priority issue for 2016. We don’t have a way to keep people from getting on drugs and we don’t have many ways for helping them to get off drugs. Once someone is addicted it is hard to know what all of the options are out there to get them out of that situation,” said Yvonne Lesicko, with the OFBF public policy team. “We are looking at solutions on how to prevent the problem in the first place and methods to solve the problem.”

Opiate addition in particular has reached epidemic proportions in Ohio and is hurting families, work places and communities. OFBF is seeking increased funding for programs focused on housing, employment, treatment, medication, and methods to reduce relapse. In addition, legalized marijuana was rejected by voters last fall, but is still very much a part of the discussion for Ohio’s future.

“We are looking at what needs to be considered with the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana. We oppose the legalization for recreational use and if we are looking at medicinal then we need to do some serious deep dives into all of the factors that need to be considered,” Lesicko said. “We are really looking at other states that have already passed these bills and how they are dealing with these issues.”

The issues that need to be explored with legalized marijuana include additional funding for addiction treatment, tax considerations, exclusion from the Ohio Constitution, strict reliance upon science and research in making decisions, a strong regulatory system, grow site considerations, workplace regulation, and appropriate access.

Property taxes and Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) continue to be hot topics for rural landowners.

“We have worked hard to get a bill introduced in the Ohio House and in the Senate. It is a key issue we are discussing with our legislators. We want to make sure that the CAUV formula is addressing accurate values of what farmland is really worth,” Lesicko said. “It is about putting tweaks to the initial formula. There are issues with how land appreciates and how landowners achieve equity buildup at predetermined rates. Neither of those things is accurate if you are in the CAUV program formula. We are working on those things in terms of a legislative solution.”

In addition, water quality remains a very pertinent topic.

“Water quality will continue to be an issue moving forward,” said Steve Hirsch, OFBF president. “Farmers aren’t the only part of the problem. Others need to step up and do their part too.”

This year, OFBF will work toward implementing recommendations from the Healthy Water Ohio Report, including partnerships with other stakeholders and organizations to develop a water trust and bond issue option to address excess nutrients in water. Implementation of SB 150 regulations will also continue to be a priority.

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