Even though I was raised a “city boy,” I have always held a deep appreciation for Ohio’s farmers, who truly rank among our finest citizens. Committed to faith, family and hard work, they safely provide healthy and nourishing food for us all.
But their hard work also means jobs and investment – agriculture is Ohio’s number one industry, contributing more than $93 billion to the state’s economy. Ohio is home to more than 1,000 food processing companies and produces more than 200 commercial crops. Of these, the Buckeye State is a leading producer in more than 35 product sectors.
I have been busy recently keeping up with our agriculture community. Last Monday I held my 10th annual Farm Forum in Reynoldsburg, where we had a productive roundtable discussion with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau, commodity organization representatives and other agriculture groups from across the state. Every year I thank them for their contributions, they share their ideas, and I find out what I can continue to do to help Ohio agriculture compete. On their minds this year was the importance of allowing the Livestock Care Standards Board to be set up, stopping climate change policy from hindering business, and the need to ensure that any reforms made to our food safety laws are science based.
On Tuesday, the day after the Farm Forum, I was back in Washington to meet with the Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents during their annual trip to our nation’s capital. I always enjoy this opportunity to hear from Ohio farmers and ranchers on various policies and discuss how my office can help.
Last year I was proud to play an active role in helping to create the Livestock Care Standards Board – an independent body of Ohioans which will ensure that those most knowledgeable on the issue are responsible for objectively reviewing Ohio’s animal care standards. This board will be made up of veterinarians, scientists, farmers, animal rights organizations and food safety experts who will work together to ensure that Ohio is setting a national example we can be proud of. For generations, Ohio farmers have worked hard each and every day to provide for the well-being of their flocks and herds. Animal care is a top priority for all, and the Livestock Care Standards Board will ensure it remains that way.
Despite these positive developments, national animal rights activists have begun efforts to undermine the board before it has even had a chance to act. The fact is, residents across Ohio have spoken with their vote to create the board and we should allow the board to move forward before taking further action.
In addition to the creation of the Livestock Care Standards Board, I am working on several issues of interest to the agriculture community. These include:
Improving Transportation Infrastructure: I have long said that passing a surface transportation bill is the best way to create much needed jobs and stimulate our economy. I recently held a transportation roundtable in Cleveland with the International Union of Operating Engineers, contractors and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to discuss the need for a robust new multi-year highway bill to create jobs and strengthen America’s highways and infrastructure system. The bill’s passage would spur the purchase of steel, concrete and other materials needed for construction projects, and it would be the largest job-creation bill for the construction industry that the U.S. Congress could undertake. Improvements to transportation infrastructure will allow agriculture products to reach consumers more quickly. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) recently gave me his commitment that the reauthorization of a multi-year surface transportation bill will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote in 2010, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this bill this year so we can put Americans back to work.
Stopping Economy-Crippling Climate Change Policies: In September 2009, the climate debate ramped up in the Senate with the introduction of the Boxer-Kerry climate change bill. I approached this piece of legislation with skepticism, as it was based largely on similar legislation which would have locked the United States into a series of overlapping mandates that disproportionately hurt states like Ohio that rely on coal for electricity and have a large manufacturing base. This year, I will continue to oppose climate change policies that lack investment in technology and create an unfavorable environment for farmers. A recent climate analysis stated that a cap-and-trade program would drive up the price of oil and fertilizer, impacting the cost of doing business for the agriculture community, and possibly leading to higher food prices at the grocery store.
As I serve out my final year in the U.S. Senate, I am committed to continuing my work as a federal partner to enact common sense policies to help safeguard Ohio’s interests and maintain our number one industry – agriculture. I look forward to our next reunion at the Ohio State Fair this summer, where my family and I enjoy all that Ohio’s agriculture community has to offer – including the famous butter cow!