Ohio Farm Bureau Trip to Washington D.C.

Last week I traveled to Washington D.C. with other county Farm Bureau President’s from Ohio. This 3-day trip was filled with policy discussions, meetings with legislators, visiting an embassy and sharing ideas with fellow agriculture enthusiasts. 

Ohio Farm Bureau is a grassroots membership organization with a mission of forging a partnership between farmers and consumers. The mission of our national organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), is to serve as a unified national voice of agriculture, working through grassroots organizations to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans and to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. The AFBF office is located near the capitol in Washington D.C. because part of Farm Bureau’s role is influencing policy that impacts farmers and rural America.

The first day of the trip, we visited the Mexican Embassy. Mexico and the U.S. have an important relationship. Mexico is our second largest export market, behind Canada. The U.S is Mexico’s third highest import market. We are neighbors who depend on each other.

On the second day, American Farm Bureau staff members briefed us on federal policy issues that would impact agriculture. Policy farmers are interested in include the 2012 Farm Bill, preserving access to antibiotics for animal health, capital gains and estate tax legislation, regulatory reform, agriculture labor and trade to name a few.

Michael Dwyer at the USDA offices in D.C.
Michael Dwyer, Director of Global Policy Analysis, spoke to us about the eight factors impacting U.S. and global food over the next decade;
From the demand side:
  1. Global economic growth and the rise of the middle class in developing countries - this segment is expected to double to 1 billion households by 2020
  2. Value of the U.S. dollar – the dollar is trending down which is historically good for agriculture
  3. Worldwide biofuel production – U.S. is the world’s largest ethanol exporter
  4. Role of trade – demand for U.S. ag products in markets like China
From the supply side:
  1. Policy errors by governments
  2. Energy and agriculture input prices
  3. Biotechnology developments
  4. Additional crop land – more land growing crops in countries like Brazil
Speaker of the House, John Boehner, speaks to our group
We met with four Ohio Congressmen including John Boehner, Speaker of the House. Speaker Boehner told us in his 21 years in Congress, he’s never seen so many new regulations as have been implemented in the last few years from health care to the EPA. This concerns me as a farmer, small business owner and citizen.

Me on the balcony of the Ag Committee Room
Me, Nate Lamoreaux and Eric Cotton outside Rep. LaTourette's office
I had the opportunity to meet with Representative Steve LaTourette, who represents my district in Northeast Ohio. There were four of us who met with Rep. LaTourette and we shared information about issues important to our farms and our communities.

Our group with Congressman LaTourette (back row center) in his office
On our third, and last, day in D.C. we heard from Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. Both seem to support agriculture, but differ in opinion when it comes to taxes. Estate tax is a big concern to farmers. At the end of 2012, the $10 million/couple exemption will decrease to $2 million/couple and the estate/death tax rate will jump from 35% to 55%. For example, if a family farmer where to die on 1/1/13, his farm would receive a $2/million exemption then the rest of the estate would be taxed at 55%. As a result, the family might be forced to sell their farm just to pay estate taxes. This is outrageous! Senator Portman supports continuing the $10 million/couple exemption at a lower tax rate and Senator Brown supports decreasing the estate tax exemption to $2 million/couple with a 55% tax rate. If you work hard during your life and are able to purchase assets you should not have to pay taxes on these assets when you die.

During the trip, our group toured the capital building. Agriculture is an important part of this country which is evident by agricultural references throughout the capitol building.

Ears of corn on one of the pillars in the Capitol
It was an interesting trip and I appreciate the opportunity to participate!

For more stories about our trip, check out:
Ohio Farm Bureau Article: County Farm Bureau Presidents meet with Legislators on Capitol Hill
Farm and Dairy Newspaper Article: OFBF County Presidents trek to Capitol Hill and County Leaders tell Legislators Child Labor Proposal is Bad Idea for Farms
Ohio Country Journal Article: Death tax debate won’t die in D.C.