Agriculture gets its day in Columbus

I had the opportunity to represent Trumbull County Farm Bureau at Ag Day at the Capital on Feb. 19.

This event is a statewide effort conducted by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation on behalf of its nearly 200,000 active and associate members. The main objective of the event is personal individual or group meetings with our elected state representatives and senators.

During these 10- to 20-minute visits, the Farm Bureau members discuss topics and issues with our legislators that are important to agriculture, rural areas and the farming community.

The program began with remarks from OFBF President Steve Hirsch. He explained the objectives for the day and gave general information about our legislative visits. Since this was my first Ag Day at the Capital, I found this information valuable.

The collective group then sat in on a live taping of a session of Town Hall Ohio. This is a radio program created and produced by the communications department of OFBF. The title of this show was “Insights on the 2014 Election” with statewide journalists.

My first legislative visit was with Sean J. O’Brien from the 63rd House District. Rep. O’Brien, Ty Kellogg (organization director for Northeast Counties Farm Bureau representing Trumbull, Mahoning, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula) and I had a very casual conversation on issues ranging from natural gas drilling and transmission pipelines to communicating animal agriculture’s story with the public. It is my nature to be personable and talkative and Rep. O’Brien and I got along very well.

Going into this, my first Ag Day, I had no preconceived ideas about us, as Farm Bureau members, telling our legislators that we want this or that politically or that we deserve their undivided support regardless of what “others” want. In our 15-minute conversation, the vast majority of the time was spent talking about what we as individuals, families, community members and agricultural producers and land owners do to promote agriculture and understanding of ag issues.

This allows Farm Bureau as an organization and individuals to approach our elected officials with a high level of credibility and passion for our industry and society.

The luncheon keynote speaker was Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. She reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to the state’s largest industry agriculture. Taylor and other legislators who ate with us told how they respected production agriculture both as a very necessary industry and a responsible group of individuals and families.

Members from Ashtabula, Geauga and Trumbull counties met with state Sen. Capri Cafaro. She is a very passionate person and legislator. We talked about more issues with her than Rep. O’Brien and I talked about. Many big issues such as school funding, CAUV ag valuation for property and rural ag education support. Cafaro and I also talked about her visit to the Braceville area one time and her intrigue about the word Phalanx. I told her that I would get information about the Trumbull Phalanx Society of the 1830-1840s, a personal photograph of my great-grandparents standing on the water dam of the creek and a copy of the Braceville history book.

I was glad that I attended Ag Day at the Capital on behalf of Trumbull County Farm Bureau and its members. I look forward to many more visits with our elected officials in local, state and federal governments.

Gary Smallsreed runs a farm in the Newton Falls area.