The Ohio Farm Bureau county presidents found themselves among a political whirlwind of various issues, keys votes and presidential politics as they traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with legislators.
Spring had sprung in D.C. where trees and gardens were in bloom and Ohio’s farmer leaders were at work bending the ears of their elected officials in Congress.
“We need our folks from Ohio to come and visit with their legislators so that they can look them in the eye and tell them how what they do in D.C. affects them back on their farm,” said Steve Hirsch, president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. “Those are the great things we like to see and the value of this trip.”
While in town there was a key vote in the Senate on a GMO-labeling bill that did not go the way Ohio Farm Bureau was hoping.
“We would like to see the safe and affordable food act pass but I don’t know. They say they are still working on it so I am cautiously optimistic, but it is a little frustrating that Vermont passed a law that is going to affect food manufacturers across the United States and the Senate can’t get their act together to fix it,” Hirsch said. “I am a little more optimistic on the Trans Pacific Partnership. We heard some folks say that it could get done this year but it probably won’t be until the lame duck session because they won’t do anything that might be controversial in an election year. Exports are very important to Ohio agriculture so it is important to get this one done.”
And, believe it or not, there is already talk about the next farm bill.
“The legislators want to know how the changes in the last farm bill are working, what needs to be tweaked and what isn’t working,” he said. “They want to know what needs to be done in the next farm bill.”
The OFBF presidents got to hear from an incredible lineup of speakers in a Congressional Farm Forum coordinated by Rep. Bob Gibbs where they learned about a wide array of ag-related issues from a group that included Collin Peterson (D-MN), Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. They also heard from Ohio senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown and met in smaller groups with their representatives. They gained a number of insights on various other federal issues including the Veterinary Feed Directive, trade, and the appropriations process from American Farm Bureau staff as well.