WASHINGTON, D.C. - After a whirlwind of congressional speeches, meetings, talks from experts and meetings with their own elected representatives, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation members completed their 2014 trip to Capitol Hill with mixed feelings.
Area farm bureau presidents expressed frustration in dealing with the government and some hope.
Jayne Wallace, Harrison County's president, said it was her 13th Farm Bureau trip to the Capitol and she believes that the visits with the congressmen remain important.
A D.C. VISIT — Dave Boring, president of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau, and Jayne Wallace, Harrison County Farm Bureau president, paused for a moment walking up Capitol Hill Tuesday for a congressional agricultural forum arranged by U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeview. While both farm bureau presidents expressed some hope for the future they and other Ohio Farm Bureau Federation leaders expressed frustration with government and leadership as an ongoing issue. -- Paul Giannamore
"It's about letting them know what issues we have and what we'd like to see them do," she said. But Wallace also expressed frustration.
"I do not see a of changes. I think it's gotten better and they are listening more," she said.
Jefferson County Farm Bureau President Dave Boring, on his second Farm Bureau lobbying trip, said the trip's importance lies in being able to meet so many legislators all at once "and realize that they are just men."
"They had to look at us," Boring said.
He said the future is bright judging from the farm people in the room who are working hard.
Bill Newell, Carroll County's president, said he was impressed by the importance of trade stressed during the visit to the Canadian Embassy on Tuesday.
"It was eye opening," he said.
Newell, whose county is the focal point of the region's shale energy boom, said the farm owners are benefiting from oil exploration in being able to reinvest in their farms and buy equipment or replace buildings.
Boring said, "It's letting Eastern Ohio bloom a little bit."
He said it's also letting, for the first time in a generation or two, young people talk actively about coming back to the area after college to live and work with new opportunities.
Dave Vollnogle, the Columbiana County Farm Bureau president, is a full-time civil engineer who owns a family farm with his brother which they lease to a neighbor. He sees the impact of burdensome regulations as a landowner and as an engineer. After listening to a talk from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who had noted efforts had been successful in getting OSHA to back off on family farms and child labor policies, Vollnogle said, "It is scary. Farmers are not able, in most cases, to recover the costs of burdensome regulations."
He said that causes many farmers to walk away.
"What I heard is that they are getting it," Vollnogle said of his second Farm Bureau trip to Washington. He said it will take more people like Brad Wilson, the Franklin County Farm Bureau's policy chairman, to take a stand.
Wilson captured the room during the Congressional forum Tuesday with a frustrated question to Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan. Wilson had said he wanted to know when things would change from Congress merely "fighting the battle of the day"
"Do you realize the country will be gone if you keep going in the direction you're going?" Wilson had asked.
After the Portman breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club, Wilson took a moment to explain his frustration.
"I come to Washington hoping to find leadership somewhere, even if it's the underdog trying to be a leader, but what I hear them saying is they're fighting the battle of the day. It seems to me nobody sees the big picture. As farmers, we're concerned about being able to pass our farms along to our family, but I'm starting to see, are we going to be able to pass the country along to our posterity, to our kids?
"That's a battle that every generation has had to fight in some way, and I see my generation and those around me failing to fight that battle, certainly failing to fight it effectively. I've enjoyed my trip here and the things I've learned, but honestly, it's a little bit depressing to me. This is the best we've got?" he said.
During the trip there was an undercurrent of frustration from members of Congress and the farmers that the actual agricultural aid in the Farm Bill is dwarfed by the food stamp and nutrition programs in the bill that could stand as a separate piece of legislation. Wilson said he knows the programs are important, but they represent a shift in the nation's thinking.
"I don't want anybody going hungry, but the Greatest Generation was raised on potatoes and jackrabbits. Look what they did. They saved the entire world," he said.
Wilson said it's time for the country to get back to something other than political correctness.
"There are principles that very successful generations have understood, the principles that are based on kindness. But, it's also chastity, morality, faith, charity. We don't live that anymore," Wilson said. "It's forced upon us and then we look at all these nutrition programs that are huge and these welfare programs and then I think, 'What a waste of money.' I am happy to help somebody who is down, but that's not what is happening. My money is being taken from me."
Wilson concluded, "We are just not sticking to the principles that our country was founded upon, that made it great. Righteousness is the bedrock of liberty, and when you start to lose that, you start to lose your liberty, and that's the truth."