COLUMBUS — Clinton County farmer Beth Ellis was in Columbus recently for the same reason as Greene County farmer Doug Shannon, Pike County farmer Tracy Robinson, Champaign County farmer Jeff Adams and Highland County farmer Roger Rhonemus.
Each of them, and dozens more like them, were in Columbus to meet with their state elected officials to lobby them on issues affecting farmers across the state. Each got the chance to air their opinions and concerns during the annual “Ag Day at the Capital” sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau.
More than 20 met in a conference room at the Capital Building with 17th District Sen. Bob Peterson, who fielded a variety of questions from the farmers across his district.
“I think it is fair to say that CAUV is the biggest issue facing farmers right now,” Ellis said. All of the farmers raised the question of CAUV taxes that are part of the formula for Ohio property taxes that farmers believe is unfairly weighed against agriculture land. Senate Bill 36 would change the capitalization rate for taxes. The bill will change the calculation rates, a measure the farm Bureau supports.
“Hopefully we will get that done,” Peterson responded.
He said typically there will be three hearings, and the second hearing was that morning, the Ways and Means Senate Committee hearing where 10-15 farmers attended and two gave testimony. “The next hearing will be for opponents. The local governments have been quiet; it is the school boards that have been presenting opposition. It has not been your school boards that have opposed this, those from the rural areas. It has been the school boards in the larger urban areas,” he said.
Peterson used the opportunity to also lobby the farmers in attendance.
“We have the opportunity for regulatory reform at the national level as never before. So I urge you to contact your U.S. Representatives, Senators Portman and Brown … send them all letters about the stupid regulations that farmers have to deal with . The Waters of the United States issues is horrendous, for example. We have a unique opportunity; we should grab it,” he urged.
Craig Adams asked about issues of water quality and more research into where the phosphorus is coming from. “It makes it much easier when we have Bob Peterson here, so we thank you.” he said.
Peterson said that with term limits, “you are always looking for someone else to come into the room.” He pointed to those farmers at the meeting for the future. “I am term limited in six years. So it is always nice to have someone on the inside coming up, but not in two years when I am on the ballot,” he laughed.
“The process (legislation) is messy at times. The process is not quick, and not easy. I want to thank all of you for being involved in this messy process,” Peterson said.
Nearby in the Vern Riffe Building, Greene County Farm Bureau president Doug Shannon, along with state Farm Bureau representative Belinda Lee, Jeff Adams and Racine Ramsey of Champaign County, met with 73rd District state Rep. Richard G. Perales.
Shannon raised the same CAUV concerns by other farmers and Senate Bill 36.
Shannon said his concern was that almost half of the revenue of farmland per acre was going to property taxes.
“In those areas, if you are a land owner who is not farming himself who is cash renting about $250 an acre, and you are paying $120 of that in property taxes, that’s half of the income in taxes. That is having an impact. For the farmers that are renting ground who are paying too much as it is, the land owner cannot afford to lower the rent because of how much in taxes they are paying for the land. It’s a delicate balancing act.”
He said the formula has been biased, and hopefully the legislation will save this. “We have been looking at this for 6-7 years,” Shannon pointed out.
Adams said that even if approved, farm taxpayers will still be paying “more than our fair share.”
Shannon also told Perales about the status of the fertilizer certification training that becomes a requirement this September.
Perales asked Shannon how farmers have been reacting to the certification requirement. “They’ve been very receptive to it. It’s gone well.”
Shannon also said there are more calls now to Soil and Water when people see farmers spreading fertilizer when they should not. “There is a lot more awareness and publicity. If I see something I am going to say something. It reflects on all of us,” Shannon said.
“What you (farmers and the Farm Bureau) do is very, very important,” said Perales.
Also during the Ag Day, farmers heard an address by Secretary of State Jon Husted, who thanked the farm community for both its economic support and “cultural support” for Ohio.
Farm Bureau President Frank Burkett also spoke, saying that the state legislators look to farmers to tell them what issues are important to them.
The Ag Day event, he pointed out, was one of those opportunities to meet face to face with state lawmakers.
“Our policy victories happen because of what you do and events like this today,” Burkett told the farmers.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.