By Matt Reese and Dale Minyo
Ohio Farm Bureau is celebrating its 100th annual meeting this week with the theme “Celebrating our Past, Creating our Future.”
The event includes a historical museum highlighting a century of Farm Bureau accomplishments in legislation, business development, cultural and social change, economic and environmental sustainability and celebrating Farm Bureau’s successes through grassroots action. For example, the organization played a role in the electrification of rural Ohio, the creation of Nationwide Insurance and the preservation of Ohio’s rural landscape.
OFBF President Frank Burkett III was honored to be a part of the centennial event.
“I’m excited about the 100th annual meeting. For 100 years farmers have been coming together to create solutions for the agricultural community in three levels of our organization — their county Farm Bureau, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau. What an accomplishment — less than 1% of U.S. companies make it to their centennial,” he said. “I can’t be more proud of the Ohio Farm Bureau.”
The Farm Bureau has been important for Ohio’s past, but also Ohio’s present, Burkett said.
“CAUV recently had some adjustments and that was run right through our county Farm Bureau organizations up through our state organization and that is providing tax relief for Ohio’s farmers,” he said. “Our members are also committed to water quality in the state of Ohio. We are going to have a lot of discussion surrounding nutrient management. At the same time we are going to have a lot of fun celebrating where we have been, where we are today and where we are going the next 100 years.”
Burkett also pointed out the tremendous success of Ohio’s county Farm Bureau organizations. Ohio’s county Farm Bureaus won eight of the 24 County Activities of Excellence awards presented by the American Farm Bureau.
“Our counties are doing some of the best programming across the nation. Eight of our counties are being recognized at American Farm Bureau and there are only 24 recognized nationally,” he said. “That is one third of the national recognition coming back to Ohio counties — that is cutting edge programming that is delivering results and bringing farmers together across Ohio.”
Nearly 3,000 Farm Bureau members are expected to attend the meeting and a special centennial celebration event and 356 voting delegates will establish the organization’s policies for the coming year.
“I am so proud of the fact that it is a true grassroots process. We have a presence in every one of our 88 counties,” said Yvonne Lesicko, vice president of public policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “They sit down and talk and have these collective meetings to share their thoughts and say, ‘What is happening here at the local level? What are we concerned about? What is happening at the state level?’ They know their position and what they want to do about it. They vote on it at their county meeting and that sends it up the line to the state policy development committee. That committee weeds through everything to see if we are getting the same concerns from the rest of the state. Then they bring a set of recommendations from that here to the delegate floor. Then our delegates vote on what they want to see as statewide policy.”
Topics expected to be addressed include the roles of farmers and government in the protection of water quality, protecting the rights of landowners engaged in various energy projects, and farm economic issues including the farm bill, trade and transportation infrastructure.
“A lot of people think that we are just about production agriculture, but our members are also thinking in a much broader spectrum in terms of making better communities,” Lesicko said.
In addition, elections will be held for board trustees, and the organization’s president, vice president and treasurer will be chosen. Also at the event, individuals are honored for their lifelong contributions to Ohio agriculture and Farm Bureau. Young Agricultural Professional leaders and award winners are acknowledged, and finalists in the Discussion Meet contest will be selected. A fundraising event for the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation will be held as well.