Latta tours area farms, talks Farm Bill
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
U.S. Representative Bob Latta was in Van Wert County to talk with farmers and find out their concerns. What Latta, whose 14-county district includes the largest number of farmers in Ohio, found was optimism about this year’s crops, but some real concerns about what is happening — or not happening — in Washington.
Latta, who has farming roots from both his and his wife’s families, toured agribusiness operations in Van Wert and Mercer County on Friday, starting out with the Bonifas farm near Venedocia Friday morning, and following with Mike and Kevin Heffelfinger’s farming operation on Greenville Road south of Van Wert. He later toured the Mercer Landmark operation in Rockford, as well as Boeckman Farms in Mercer County.
At the Heffelinger farm, the congressman talked to both Heffelfingers, who have a farming operation that originated in the 1850s; Mike Heffelfinger’s wife, Kendra, who works for AgCredit; Mercer Landmark agronomist Randy Roe; and Mike Schumm, who operates a grain and livestock operation that straddles the Van Wert-Mercer County line.
While Mike Heffelfinger said this year’s corn and soybean crops look “very promising”, he also added that farmers he talks to as a board member of the Ohio Soybean Association have some real concerns related to the failure of Congress to pass a new Farm Bill. Heffelfinger also talked about the impact of increased federal regulations on agriculture.
The main concern of farmers, Heffelfinger said, is not direct payments, which he said most farmers could live without, but crop insurance programs.
While progress on the Farm Bill has been sluggish, Latta said he talked to House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas right before he left Washington, noting that Lucas said his committee was working on the bill, but that progress was slow at this point.
“We need a new Farm Bill because we want to get rid of things like direct payments,” Latta said, adding that the bill would also provide $20 billion worth of cuts on the agriculture side and another $20 billion in food and nutrition program cuts.
Much of the problem with the Farm Bill lies in the fact that only about 20 percent of the bill actually deals with agribusiness concerns, with the remaining 80 percent concerned with food and nutrition issues, mostly dealing with the federal food stamp program.
While Latta noted that combining agriculture and food and nutrition back in 1973 was seen as a way to get urban support for rural farming operations, but the fact that only about 1 percent of Ohioans now work on farms has created a problem for farming interests.
Mike Heffelfinger said the increased federal regulations were making it more difficult, and more expensive, to farm — a situation that has impacted the bottom line of farmers and other agribusiness operations in Ohio and around the country.
Schumm, whose family farming operation began in 1838, also talked about the need for immigration reform, noting that there are a number of farming operations, mostly in the food gathering and food processing areas, that rely on immigrant workers.
Latta said federal regulations are a huge problem, not only for farmers, but for all U.S. businesses. “There are $1.8 billion of regulations on businesses, individuals and farmers in this country,” he said, adding, “And people wonder why sometimes things get more expensive.”
As an example of excessive regulation, Latta talked about a federal regulation related to child labor proposed 18 months ago that would have prevented the children of farmers from working on their family farms.
“If it wasn’t for the American farmer mobilizing, they would have got that rule pushed on America,” Latta said, noting that implementing the regulation would have greatly increased costs for farmers, while also threatening the continuation of the family farm.
Moreover, while he commended area farmers for their ability to produce food inexpensively, Latta said that situation could change if Washington doesn’t curb unnecessary regulations.
The congressman also noted that more has to be done to show federal legislators how important farming is to the U.S. economy, adding that a country that can’t produce its own food will soon become irrelevant to the rest of the world.