COLUMBUS – Severance taxes, the Ohio Turnpike and ag nutrient pollution are among the policy initiatives in the spotlight for The Ohio Farmers Union, a 5,000 member family farm and consumer advocacy group.
New state and federal level public policy positions are made by OFU each January at its annual convention. Gone from last year’s policy list is a call for a moratorium on fracking in Ohio until the U.S. EPA issues a report on horizontal drilling’s effects on the environment.
“We’ve removed our moratorium request due to the fact that the EPA report is still not complete. We have members in shale counties who stand to benefit from responsible well-drilling, but we also have members greatly concerned about what we don’t know about what fracking will do to water supplies,” said Roger Wise, OFU president.
“We will continue to urge lawmakers to protect farmers and rural landowners and our air and water first. Our new policy position requests that the U.S. EPA include water quality in its ongoing study.”
At the state level, OFU is supporting the Kasich Administration’s Ohio Turnpike plan with two caveats: First, that northern Ohio be defined as territory north of U.S. 224 and second that the Ohio General Assembly codify Administration pledges to keep 90 percent or more of Turnpike bond and other revenue in northern Ohio.
OFU is also supportive raising severance taxes in the state, but differs with Kasich on where new revenue should go.
“Shale counties should see some of that severance tax revenue. Keep some of the revenue where it’s collected for public education and infrastructure. We know from other states that roads are going to be torn up in drilling areas, let’s make sure we rebuild them,” Wise said.
OFU is also calling for some severance tax revenue to be set aside for environmental mitigation. Wise also said the group will ask Kasich and legislators to add so-called Natural Gas Liquids to the list of items taxed.
“Conspicuously absent from the governor’s first severance tax proposal were Natural Gas Liquids – the most valuable resource coming out of the well. Why Ohio would tax silver, but not gold, that’s a question for the governor and the Ohio General Assembly. It appears to be a gift to Big Oil & Gas,” Wise said.
OFU will also advocate this year for updates to Ohio’s grain indemnity law. The Grain Indemnity Fund is a producer-funded Ohio Dept. of Agriculture program that keeps farmers whole in the event of a grain elevator failure. No tax dollars or general revenue funds are used to maintain the inspection program or emergency fund.
To read all of OFU’s 2013 policy priorities, download the 2013 Ohio Farmers Union Special Orders of Business.