As Adopted by the Delegates to the 85th Annual Ohio Farmers Union Convention, Lima, Ohio January 25, 2020
Special Order of Business 2020-01 Current Policy Focus of Ohio Farmers Union Concerning Lake Erie Water Quality and Nutrient Management
Lake Erie is the source of drinking water for 11 million people and contributes over one billion dollars annually to Ohio’s economy. Restoring and protecting Lake Erie and its watershed has been a significant challenge over the years.
The Ohio Farmers Union has supported voluntary initiatives such as the 4Rs program, cover crops, filter strips, buffer zones and blind outlets in efforts to reduce nutrient runoff into Lake Erie.
The Ohio Farmers Union has also advocated for further regulation of confined/concentrated animal feeding facilities/CAFOs and that nutrients only be applied at the agronomic rate.
These ideas, for the most part, have fallen on deaf ears. Lake Erie continues to exhibit problems related to nutrient overload.
The Ohio Farmers Union now calls on the state of Ohio to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for livestock CAFOs in the Maumee watershed. We would rescind our call for a moratorium if there were to be a census of livestock in the Maumee watershed coupled with state policy to regulate the number of animal units to be limited to the watershed’s carrying capacity.
The Ohio Farmers Union reiterates from our Special Order of Business in 2019 that we believe the spreading of fertilizer – including manure – be limited to the agronomic rate, especially in any watershed designated as impaired by the U.S. or state of Ohio EPA.
Special Order of Business 2020-02 The Will of Congress Should Prevail on SNAP Work Requirements
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a vital part of the U.S. social safety net as the foundation of federal efforts to fight hunger across the nation.
The U.S. Congress engaged in debate during consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill over more strenuous work requirements for SNAP recipients. In the end, Congress chose to leave existing work requirements unchanged and the Farm Bill was passed and signed into law.
The current Administration has enacted a rulemaking process within USDA to limit states’ ability to waive the existing work requirements. Workforce readiness, poverty and adequate employment are localized issues and the states should have the ability – as they already possess – to maintain state-level flexibility in administration of SNAP.
The Ohio Farmers Union urges the President and USDA Secretary to abandon additional SNAP work requirements that are not in line with the will of Congress. Furthermore, OFU urges Congress to act to protect the existing flexibility in state-level SNAP administration.
Special Order of Business 2020-03 Increased Accountability for State & Federal Checkoff Funds
OFU’s long-standing policy supports commodity checkoffs – only if they are voluntary, and with the decision to opt in made by the producer at the original point of sale.
Whereas the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that checkoff contributions are mandatory “government speech” and that producers cannot become exempt from the obligation to contribute, even if they disagree with the actions and positions taken by checkoff organizations; and
Whereas several commodity checkoff organizations have fallen under the influence of global processing and distribution corporations, such as Smithfield and JBS, who operate under the ownership and control of foreign corporations, therefore,
We propose that federal and state checkoff funds be paid directly to the appropriate federal or state treasury and then be audited by the corresponding federal or state auditing agency to assure that the actions of checkoff groups comply with the intentions of the Congress, in support of the interests of domestic agricultural producers. The Ohio Farmers Union urges that the Ohio Governor in conjunction with the Ohio State Auditor to take seriously the governance of these multi-million-dollar public-private entities and ensure that farmers’ hard-earned, coerced contributions are being used according to state and federal laws and not directly for political lobbying activities.
Special Order of Business 2020-04 Healthcare Reform for Rural America
The Ohio Farmers Union has long supported reform of the U.S. healthcare system. Our Special Order of Business on healthcare in 2019 outlined several commonsense reforms that could be made in the healthcare, health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
With the passing of every year, healthcare costs continue to rise and political leaders in Washington, D.C. refuse to enact any meaningful reforms that would guarantee every American access to quality, affordable healthcare.
Rural Americans are especially vulnerable to the ills of the nation’s healthcare system on many fronts. There are far fewer service providers and in many rural counties in Ohio there is only a single insurance provider available in the ACA Healthcare Marketplace.
The Ohio Farmers Union believes that at the least, there needs to be a public health insurance option available to all Americans who are not covered by health insurance through their workplace. The Ohio Farmers Union urges its members to strongly consider any 2020 U.S. presidential candidate’s healthcare policy a primary decision point in whether or not they will support a candidate. We believe any candidate’s public policy should be based on making access to quality healthcare universal and affordable.
Special Order of Business 2020-05 Supporting Renewable Energy in Rural Ohio
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the Earth’s atmosphere peaked at 414 parts per million level in May 2019—the highest level in the past 800,000 years of Earth history (1). The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere now increases every year and the rate of increase is accelerating (2). These sharp increases in CO2 have triggered an era of global climate change which will have profound effects on agriculture in the present and on the basic ability of future generations to survive on this planet.
The Ohio Farmers Union recognizes that climate change is based on sound science and has been caused by human activity since the dawn of the industrial revolution. We believe that the transition from coal and (eventually) petroleum-based fuels to wind and solar energy generation – as well as renewable biofuels and geothermal energy – is a necessary first step in our response to CO2-induced climate change. We also believe that wind and solar development provides unique economic opportunities for Ohio’s rural economy, providing leasing fees to landowners, tax benefits for rural school districts, and high-tech jobs for young Ohioans.
To this end, OFU urges the Ohio General Assembly to remove existing obstacles like unreasonable wind turbine setback requirements and preferential ratepayer incentives for fossil fuels. We also urge the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to provide guidance and prompt regulatory approval for solar and wind projects, both for investor owned utilities and for local community owned projects.
Special Order of Business 2020-06 Monopolistic Corporate Concentration in Ag Industry Ohio
Farmers Union is appalled at the increasing consolidation in all sectors of the agricultural economy. We do not believe that the Department of Justice is doing its legally mandated work of preventing monopolies. Therefore, we continue to support the Senator Cory Booker’s “Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Anti-Trust Review Act” (2019 S 1596).
Special Order of Business 2020-07 Ohio Needs Regulation on Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Lands
According to USDA data reported by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and the Associated Press, more than 28 million farmland acres valued at around $52 billion are owned or long-term leased by foreign investors. These lands if put together would roughly equal the size of our state of Ohio.
Ohio is one of several states with lax or non-existent regulation of foreign ownership of agricultural land or agricultural infrastructure. The Ohio Farmers Union would support legislation in the Ohio General Assembly enacting a moratorium on the foreign ownership agricultural land or infrastructure in Ohio.
While food security is one important reason for a ban on foreign ownership of agricultural land and infrastructure, foreign corporate concentration of ownership of key parts of the U.S. food supply is growing. The Ohio Farmers Union believes that American farms, farmland and food supply infrastructure should be owned U.S. citizens, or that non-U.S. citizens or U.S.-based companies should be severely limited in ownership of agricultural lands and infrastructure critical to our system of food.
Ohio currently calls for some registration of foreigners who own property within the state, but our state is one of several states in the union that do not have prohibitions or limits on foreign ownership agricultural lands or economic interests.
The Ohio Farmers Union calls upon the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio Governor to seriously investigate this issue and propose and enact legislation regarding foreign ownership of agricultural land and/or agricultural businesses or infrastructure in our state.
Special Order of Business 2020-08 Renewable Fuel Standard Decisions in Washington Continue to Reward Fossil Fuel Companies at the Expense of Farmers
The Ohio and National Farmers Union organizations have long supported the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS was passed by Congress in 2005 as part of the Energy Security Act and signed by the President.
The main provision of the RFS simply states that annually a prescribed number of gallons of transportation fuel in the United States shall contain renewable fuels. While corn-based ethanol has been a major focus of the annual renewable fuel blending targets, the law also calls for advanced bio-fuels research and usage over time.
Blending ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply has reduced the nation’s dependence on foreign oil imports and created a dynamic ethanol industry. RFS-driven ethanol production has also had the additional benefit of providing a market opportunity for Ohio and U.S. corn growers.
The problem in recent years with RFS is twofold. The U.S. EPA is supposed to annually set ever-growing targets for the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s fuel stocks. Problem number one is that U.S. EPA, under successive administrations, has been derelict in its duty to set these targets on time and ensure certainty in fuel and agricultural markets. The second problem is the granting of so-called ‘hardship waivers’ to the fossil-fuel industry-owned gasoline refineries. These waivers were meant to ensure ethanol blending did not add to profitability concerns at individual facilities that may be less suited to handle the blending of ethanol into their product. The current Administration has granted an historic number of these waivers. Media and agricultural interest groups have noted that many of these waivers are being granted to profitable refineries, subverting the intent of the Energy Security Act – and harming the stability of U.S. ethanol producers like POET and U.S. corn markets.
The Ohio Farmers Union calls upon the Administration to stick to the letter of the law as defined by the Energy Act of 2005 and subsequent legislation passed by Congress outlining how the Renewable Fuel Standard should be administered. Further, OFU asks the Administration to review hardship waivers granted to refiners and rescind those that do not serve the purpose and intent of RFS legislation. Finally, OFU asks the Ohio General Assembly to pass a resolution of support for the Renewable Fuel Standard, acknowledging the benefits to Ohio farmers and the overall economy of Ohio’s ethanol industry – from pump to field.
Special Order of Business 2020-09 Industrial Agricultural Integrators and Indemnity for Environmental Cleanup Related to Confined Animal Feeding Facilities and Operations
As corporate concentration has taken over the U.S. livestock industry, more and more farmers have found themselves in the position to stay in business by ceding to the equipment, facility and contractual demands of so-called integrators – or large ag businesses that contract for animal production and supply the stock and feed to farmers and demand certain infrastructure by farmers.
Integrators in the ag economy have changed the landscape from many family-sized farms, to fewer family farms and more confined animal feeding facilities and confined animal feeding operations.
In this changing economic landscape, many farmers are left with the choice to either abandon farming or to grow larger – succumbing to the demands of the integrators to make investments on their land for specialized buildings and equipment that are needed to safely and effectively raise larger numbers of livestock. These investments are often made by the farmer, not the integrator, although the integrator, being a large corporation, sets the terms of engagement between themselves and the farmer.
When these farms fail, it’s the belief of the Ohio Farmers Union that the environmental cleanup and final safe and environmentally benign disposition of agricultural waste such as manure should be the responsibility of the integrator. Given Ohio’s severe water quality issues, especially in the Maumee Watershed, OFU is calling on the Ohio General Assembly to investigate the feasibility of establishing an Ohio Agricultural Integrator Environmental Indemnity fund. While we would leave it to the normal legislative process to establish how such a system would work, we believe that through some regular fee or levy on the integrators, this fund should grow and be administered by the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture in the event that a CAFF or CAFO enters bankruptcy or otherwise fails.
Special Order of Business 2020-10 Prohibit Brine from Oil & Gas Operations from Being Used as Dust Suppression and De-icing Treatments
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has been testing “brine” from conventional and horizontal oil and gas for radioactivity. These results show high levels of Radium-226 and radium-228, both of which induce cancer. Therefore, the Ohio Farmers Union asks the state of Ohio to prohibit the use of all brine for both dust suppression and de-icing.
The Ohio Farmers Union Annual Convention will return to the Howard Johnson Hotel, Banquet and Conference Center in Lima, Ohio for 2020.
This 86th annual meeting of the family farm organization will be held January 24-25, 2020.
Contact your county or regional Farmers Union president to inquire about becoming a delegate or simply attend for the fellowship and presentation on state and national farm policy, industrial hemp, how trade has affected family farms – and a 2020 trade outlook – as well as the Friday night banquet.
Saturday will conclude the convention with more special guest presentations and the adoption of OFU’s 2020 policy priorities – the ‘special orders of business.’
The change in venue from Columbus to Lima was a success last year. The facilities in Lima offered everything OFU had access to in Columbus and the reviews from delegates and participants was positive.
One interesting wrinkle this year will be a visit from National Farmers Union Vice President Patty Edelburg as NFU is going through its first leadership change since 2009 when Roger Johnson was elected president. Johnson announced his retirement recently after a strong ten years of leading NFU.
Ohio Dept. of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda will open this year’s convention with an address to the assembly on Friday. Other speakers lined up for the convention include the president of the Ohio Hemp Growers Coop and an agricultural trade expert from Ohio State University. Other speakers will be announced soon.
OFU will hold a policy committee meeting on Tuesday, January 7, 2020. For information contact Ron Sylvester at rcs[at]ronsylvester[dot]com. Proposed Special Orders of Business will be adopted at the convention from among proposals adopted by the policy committee and any proposals from the floor that meet the rules of the meeting.
To register for the convention:
To receive the OFU discounted rate for a hotel room at Howard Johnson’s please contact the hotel at 419-222-0004 and mention the Ohio Farmers Union when making your reservation.
The 2020 Joseph Fichter Scholarship will be awarded January 25, 2019 at the 85th Annual Ohio Farmers Union Convention in Lima.
OFU high school seniors should apply now. The deadline for applications is January 22, 2020 at noon.
Entrants in the contest shall write on this theme for 2020:
2020 may go down as the year an industrial hemp industry begins in Ohio. The Ohio Dept of Agriculture will soon officially begin the state hemp program.
Based on information from ODA’s website and news coverage from other states, what’s your view of the feasibility of hemp becoming a profitable crop for family farmers? In your answer, consider things like the cost of licensing and proposed regulations as outlined in the ODA rules proposal. Also, consider the larger market forces for industrial hemp – where will farmers market their crops, are there other states in the U.S. or regions in Canada where there has already been success in hemp cultivation? Is industrial hemp an exciting new opportunity or are there too many risks in a market that is not fully formed?
Any member of the Ohio Farmers Union who is a high school senior may compete for this scholarship. Students who are not members but are sons, daughters or grandchildren of OFU members may apply.
First-place will receive $750 and the runner-up will receive $250 toward their post-secondary education expenses.
For complete instructions and to apply, please visit the Official Fichter Contest Page here. and follow the instructions.
This is the first year we’ve taken the essay application process completely online, here are a few notes:
- It’s suggested that you write your essay in a Word or other document type, save it and then cut and paste it into the editor at ohfarmersunion.org. In the event there is any issue with the app, you’ll have your essay saved.
- OFU’s website is secure. Entrants records, including name address, email, etc. will be deleted after the OFU convention.
- If there are any issues with the website and application online, please do not hesitate to contact Ron Sylvester with OFU at email@example.com.
Deadline for online applications is January 20 at noon.
from National Farmers Union:
| In retaliation against the United States’ most recent escalation in an ongoing trade war, China today announced that it will increase tariffs on $75 billion worth of American goods, including a number of agricultural products. Starting on September 1, the country plans raise tariffs on American soybeans from 25 percent to 30 percent and on pork from 50 percent to 60 percent. On December 1, they will increase tariffs on corn, sorghum and wheat from 25 percent to 35 percent. |
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the news:
| “It’s no surprise that China is slapping even more tariffs on American products. Every time Trump escalates his trade war, China calls his bluff – and why would we expect any differently this time around? And it’s no surprise that farmers are again the target.
In just the past three years, U.S. soybean exports to China have fallen nearly 80 percent, and once these tariffs kick in, things are likely to get worse.
Things have been difficult for farmers long before this trade war rolled around. Farmers are making half of what they were in 2013, and they’ve taken on record levels of debt just to keep their doors open. Chronic overproduction continues to push commodity prices down, and extreme weather events and higher temperatures caused by climate change have made the job of growing food that much more challenging. But instead of looking to solve existing problems in our agricultural sector, this administration has just created new ones. Between burning bridges with all of our biggest trading partners and undermining our domestic biofuels industry, President Trump is making things worse, not better.”
According to a recent Reuters report, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved 31 of its 38 pending small refinery exemptions (SREs) for 2018. Recipients of the exemptions are not required to comply with renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The RFS exists to drive investment in American-grown biofuels. However, EPA has consistently misappropriated RFS waivers, cutting demand for biofuels by 2.6 billion gallons and undermining the intent of the law. NFU President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the report:
“This has been a particularly painful week for American family farmers and ranchers. It started on Monday with China – historically our biggest trading partner – halting all imports of American farm products, and it ended today with EPA acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of big oil.
“But these aren’t isolated events – it has been month after month of bad news. After more than a year of constant trade escalation, President Trump seems determined to destroy the United States’ reputation as a reliable supplier of quality agricultural products. At the same time, his EPA seems bent on destroying our domestic market for renewable fuels. Together, these actions are crippling our markets, creating enormous stress in the countryside, and forcing more and more farmers into bankruptcy.
“Our farmers are growing weary of the news from this White House. They’re tired of the empty promises, they’re tired of the excuses, and they’re tired of their needs being put last.”
from National Farmers Union
The U.S. Senate has passed the Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019, a bill that will expand family farmers’ access to relief under Chapter 12 farm bankruptcy rules by increasing the debt limit from $4.2 million to $10 million. The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives last week, now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
National Farmers Union (NFU) endorsed the legislation when it was first introduced in April, as it would help more family farmers avoid liquidation or foreclosure. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to its passage:
“Chronic overproduction, an ongoing international trade war, and a series of extreme weather events have created a perfect storm for the farm economy. Farm debt is at a record high, and too many operations have been pushed to the brink financially. The Family Farmer Relief Act will help more family farmers access Chapter 12 relief, giving them a fighting chance to stay in business. We applaud Congress for passing this important legislation, and we urge President Trump to swiftly enact it into law.”
Bipartisan Bill Would Address Flood of Foreign Capital
|With little relief in sight for persistently low commodity prices, U.S. family farmers and ranchers are facing a bleak economic future. But a bipartisan bill introduced today by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) would help restore prosperity to rural America by correcting an imbalance in U.S. monetary policy.|
The Competitive Dollar for Jobs and Prosperity Act (CDJPA) would work to realign the value of the dollar, making U.S. agricultural exports more competitive abroad. By applying a market access charge on foreign investments, the legislation would strategically slow the flood of foreign capital that is currently driving up the dollar’s value to noncompetitive levels. As the value of the dollar declines, U.S. agricultural exports will be more competitive, spurring demand for those goods in markets abroad. As the demand for those products increases, so in turn will the prices paid to U.S. farmers and ranchers. A one percent decline in the value of the dollar could lead to as much as a 2.5 percent increase in the prices of certain crops.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to the bill’s introduction:
|“The overvalued U.S. dollar puts American family farmers and ranchers on an uneven playing field with the rest of the world. Despite near record levels of agricultural exports, median farm income has been negative for six straight years, and low commodity prices are a big part of the problem. Farmers can’t continue to thrive if they are spending more to produce a crop than they’re earning when it’s sold. “If the U.S. dollar were realigned, our agricultural exports would be more competitive on the world market. Increased demand for these goods would drive up the price—a necessary change that would have far-reaching effects for agricultural communities. Further, a realigned dollar would also help reduce the U.S. trade deficit, potentially bringing back jobs to rural America. “American family farmers and ranchers know that the over-valued dollar has reduced the prices they are paid for their goods and has harmed the long-term prosperity of their communities. The Competitive Dollar for Jobs and Prosperity Act introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Josh Hawley is needed to restore fairness to international trade markets and to provide opportunity for economic prosperity for family farmers and all of rural America.”|
Two months after announcing its intentions to provide a new package to assist family farmers and ranchers coping with trade damages, the USDA has released finalized details about the timing and calculation of direct payments to producers through the Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
The agency has earmarked up to $14.5 billion for the program to be distributed in three separate tranches. Eligible producers can submit applications for the first tranche beginning next Monday, July 29, through December 6, 2019, and payments will be sent out starting in mid- to late August. Most commodity grain producers will be compensated based on a single county rate ranging from $15 to $150 per planted acre.
For more detailed information on the Market Facilitation Program, visit your local FSA office or visit USDA’s MFP page.
For the first round of payments, they will receive a minimum of $15 per acre and up to 50% of the county rate. In contrast, dairy producers will receive 20 cents per hundredweight based on historical production.
Additional relief for hog and specialty crop producers will be available as well. Given the significant difficulties that ongoing trade uncertainty has caused, National Farmers Union is relieved that farmers will be receiving much-needed assistance. NFU President Roger Johnson released the following statement in response to USDA’s announcement:[Read more…]
Thirty-five farm and food organizations called on elected officials and candidates running for office to address the disproportionate market power held by the giant agribusinesses that dominate livestock and poultry markets. The list of priorities for creating fair and competitive markets for family farmers is endorsed by groups from across the country that represent producers raising livestock and poultry.
“Our food system is clearly rigged. While just a handful of multi-national corporations have been allowed to exert more and more control over every step of the agricultural supply chain, farmers and ranchers have been left to cope with higher production costs and fewer marketing choices as well as unfair and abusive business practices. These factors have contributed to the increasingly slim profit margins that have forced too many farms to close their doors. Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 70,000 farms went out of business, most of which were mid-sized, family-owned operations,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President, Roger Johnson. “In light of these circumstances, it is critical that we act now to restore fair competition to agriculture. As the field of 2020 candidates vie for the presidency, we urge them to take the issue of corporate consolidation and anti-trust enforcement seriously by incorporating these recommendations into their platforms.”
The policy changes urged by the groups are needed because the largest meatpackers and processors control all stages of food animal production, forcing farmers into one-sided contracts that eliminate market transparency, depress prices, undermine the livelihoods of independent farmers and ranchers, and threaten farmers’ ability to adopt sustainable production practices.
“Our farm advocates have taken in hundreds of hotline calls from livestock and poultry producers in recent years struggling to make ends meet,” said Sally Lee, Associate Director of RAFI-USA. “These are hardworking farmers who are experts at what they do, but the marketplace has been rigged against them. Farmers deserve dignity and respect for their work, and we cannot let their basic rights be written off in the fine print of an unfair contract.”
The groups are calling on elected officials and candidates to support measures to rebalance the economic relationships between farmers, ranchers, consumers, workers, and food companies, including policies to:
- Enforce and strengthen antitrust and fair practice laws, including enforcement of the Packers & Stockyards Act.
- Ensure access to fair farm credit, including holding lenders accountable for equitable lending practices.
- Restore mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork.
- Stop subsidizing overproduction, including restricting government loan guarantees to large-scale contract operations.
- Break up food and agriculture monopolies, including instituting a moratorium on new mergers in the food and agriculture system.
- Stop subsidizing foreign corporations, by prohibiting federal procurement programs from buying meat from animals born, raised or slaughtered outside the U.S.
- Level the playing field for independent processors, including addressingthe bias in food safety regulations toward large corporate slaughter and processing facilities.