|County residents active at OFU convention|
|Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff|
|Saturday, 15 February 2014 09:31|
COLUMBUS - Ten participants from Wood County joined nearly 250 delegates, non-voting members and guests at the recent Ohio Farmers Union convention in Columbus. The meetings were highlighted by numerous speakers including Secretary Tom Vilsack, of the United States Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.
The focus of the convention included shaping the organization's 2014 public policy agenda. The 80th annual state convention was its largest in several years.
Joe Logan of Trumbull County, was selected as the new president. He previously served on the OFU Executive Committee and was also previously the group's president. Logan and his family are longtime dairy farmers who also produce grains and grass-fed beef. He also serves as the co-chair of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a bipartisan fair trade advocacy group.
Among the concerns of the membership are the long-term effects of fracking and the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater. Those topics continue to dominate policy discussions among its membership.
Vilsack spoke at the convention just two days after a U.S. House vote to approve the final version of the Farm Bill. The secretary thanked the group for their support of the bill and was confident of the Senate to also pass the measure.
In particular, Vilsack said the National Farmers Union and its affiliates like OFU were responsible for saving Country of Origin Labeling for U.S. meat products. He also stressed the importance of agriculture noting it "remains as important as ever and the human values coming from the farm and small towns are irreplaceable."
He urged the member to remain politically active and maintain a strong voice for rural America.
Prior to the Senate's vote on the Farm Bill, Brown told the convention, "There are several titles in the farm bill, all of them important to this state. You think about rural development, you think about conservation titles, you think about commodities in title one and what we've been able to do there, and obviously you think about the nutrition part and all that helps make our state better."
Brown added, "I'm virtually certain we'll pass it, and I am virtually certain the president of the United States will sign it."
Regarding the Farm Bill Vilsack also said, "I think it is important and necessary that we explain to our friends in cities and suburbs why farmers need these safety nets."
Adding, "I honestly don't think that folks fully appreciate the risk that's associated with farming. You could be the best farmer in the world, you could make every decision correct, you could plant at the right time, you could get the right chemical mix, you could get the right fertilizer, you could do everything exactly right, and then Mother Nature can decide to rain for 40 days or not rain for 40 months. And your crop's gone."
Logan was nominated by outgoing president Roger Wise who served OFU through six years which included navigating the organization through some tough times including replacing an insurance business partnership with its current property and casualty partner Hastings Mutual Insurance. Wise also began a strategic plan process in 2013 that is aimed at further boosting membership and kick-starting youth and other programming. Wise will continue to serve on OFU's executive committee.
"The Ohio Farmers Union provides a unique and much needed voice for independent family farmers and consumers, concerning critical issues like market fairness, food quality and safety, and the environmental impacts and husbandry practices of modern industrialized agriculture," said Logan.
"I wish to thank Roger Wise for providing excellent leadership over the past six years at OFU. His steady hand helped the organization negotiate some turbulent times, and I will be gratified to have his counsel over the coming years," Logan added.
OFU convention delegates also approved a slate of policy priorities for 2014 in a 'special orders of business' document. The effects of shale gas boom in large swathes of rural Ohio and current weaknesses in the state's regulatory regime led the topics of debate.
"A big challenge - and one we accept - is to work with others across the state and ensure the oil and gas industry isn't given carte blanche to operate in rural Ohio for a decade or two and leave our farmland, air and water in worse shape than they found it," Logan said.
The Ohio Farmers Union has more than 4,000 members in Ohio working on legislative issues in the state which affect family-sized, independent producers as well as cooperative education and marketing efforts for family farmers.
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