Rep. Davidson hosts annual Farm Forum

L to R: Rep. Thompson, Rep. Davidson, Baldrige and State Rep. Creech.

NEW PARIS—Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) hosted the annual Farm Forum at National Trail High School on Saturday morning.

In attendance were elected officials Preble County Commissioners David Haber, Rachel Vonderhaar and Adam Craft; as well as Darke County Commissioners Matt Aultman, Marshall Combs and Larry Holmes; Preble County Recorder Jeanne Creech; Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson; State Rep. Angie King (R-84); State Rep. Roy Klopfenstein (R-82); State Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-28); State Senator George Lang (R-4) and former State Rep. Jim Buchy. 

The Farm Forum is an annual gathering specifically focused on agriculture. Each year, Rep. Davidson invites agriculture experts from the state and federal government to address issues unique to the 8th District’s farmers.

This year’s experts were Rep. “GT” Thompson, Chairman, US House Agriculture Committee; Brian Baldridge, Director, Ohio Department of Agriculture; Rep. Rodney Creech, Chairman, Ohio House Agriculture Committee and Brandon Kern, Senior Director of State and National Policy, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

This year’s forum was particularly focused on once-every-five-years Farm Bill authorization process.

Originally a product of the New Deal, the first farm bill in 1933 focused on commodity price support to provide relief for farmers and ensure a steady domestic food supply for Americans during the Great Depression.

Since then, lawmakers have passed 18 farm bills and greatly expanded the reach of the legislation. For example, Congress added a conservation section to the farm bill in 1985 and an energy title in 2002.

The most recent farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, has 12 titles and includes programs for commodity crops, nutrition, trade, crop insurance, forestry and rural development.

The majority of the funds in the farm bill go toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Rep. Davidson said he believes SNAP benefits should come with work requirements.

“Everyone would help a friend in need, but at some point you’d look to your friend and say, ‘Everyone is hiring, schools are open, everyone needs volunteers,'” he said. “If you’re an able bodied adult with no kids at home, I’m confident we’re going to ask that you do that, or some combination of it in this farm bill.”

While Rep. Davidson noted that the process will come with challenges, he said he’s confident the group will get everything they want.

Following introductions, the group of experts, along with Rep. Davidson, took questions for about an hour.

Below are a portion of the questions:

PFAS contamination is a big concern near military bases. How do we mitigate these risks without overpowering the EPA in a way that harms farmers?

“The last general assembly in the Ohio House, I carried the PFAS language that was signed into a law by Governor DeWine,” Rep. Creech said. “Basically what we looked at was, especially in the safety services aspect of the fire service, this is where a lot of this is coming from. We know Montgomery County had a tremendous amount, keeping that out of the waterways. Now, it’s restricted in training settings. That’s where a lot of that was being used, and where a lot of the problem was. Moving ahead, Ohio is kind of doing what’s right in that space, and saying, ‘You can still use it in an emergency setting. But not in the training settings, and keep it out of out of our waterways.'”

Will you be able to get work requirements put in place in regards to SNAP benefits?

“Unfortunately, in parts of the country, they don’t even care if there’s fraud,” Rep. Davidson said. “At the end of the day, the cash makes it into their communities. It all gets spent. In Maine, they required a photo ID on their EBT, and fraud went way down. We want the program to exist, I think there’s a broad need for it in the country. We love our neighbors.”

What’s the future of the H2Ohio program? What are some other thoughts about how we can support the agriculture in our community in promoting water?

“We’ve got to make sure to give all the good data,” Baldridge said. “It can’t be, ‘We’re here from the government, we’re here to help.’ I know as a farmer, I get a little nervous when i hear that, and that doesn’t work in the ag community. We have to make sure that we’re putting the information out there. I’m excited where technology takes us.”

What do we know about the situation in East Palestine with the derailment, and the impacts to agriculture?

“From the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture, we’ve been a secondary agency, we’ve been ready and willing to be part of the solution,” Baldridge said. “As we look to the future, we will be having a meeting later this week with the ag community up there. There’s already a plan in place that’s in the finalizing stages from Norfolk Southern, to look at soil testing and so forth. We’re to that point of engaging. As we move into spring time, we’ll be part of that solution.”