Source: Gary Brock videoFarmer Fred Yoder of Plain City, a member of President Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, talks about farm conservation and the impact of possible cuts in the federal agriculture budget.
By Gary Brock
WILMINGTON — Plain City farmer Fred Yoder says he is all in favor of streamlining government and getting rid of unnecessary paperwork, but is worried that too many cuts in the agriculture and EPA budgets by the Trump Administration might do more harm than good.
“He (President Trump) is whacking agriculture pretty hard; about $4.7 billion. I don’t think that this is fair since we don’t have an agriculture secretary in place that has had a chance to talk about these cuts. It is going to be tough,” Yoder told more than 200 guests at the event.
Yoder, a member of President Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, was one of the speakers at the 4th annual Farm Seminar on the state of agriculture in Ohio, held at Wilmington College March 16. This week was Ohio Agriculture Week, and the seminar included agriculture updates from Greenfield native and Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dave Daniels, Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Adam Sharp, retiring Nationwide Board of Directors member and Highland County farmer Ken Davis and Wilmington College Agriculture Department Dean Dr. Monte Anderson.
Yoder said he has been encouraged by what President Trump has told the group since its formation last year.
“The first conference call we had, Mr. Trump was on the line, and he said, ‘I don’t know anything about agriculture, but you do.’ That’s great. That was good to hear. All the people on the committee are leaders, and we are not a rubber stamp,” Yoder pointed out.
He said he feels good about Secretary of Agriculture-designate Sonny Perdue and believes he will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate by the end of April.
But Yoder does have concerns about the state of agriculture and what may happen under the Trump Administration.
“One of the things we hear a lot about is cutting regulations. I am all in favor of cutting red tape, but I think there can be unintended consequences. We talk about cutting the EPA and getting rid of all those people. But remember, how do we get the bio-tech items approved through EPA? We need to be careful about not throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” Yoder said.
“What I’m afraid of is the perception that there is not value in those conservation programs. I think it is important that farmers find there is good economic reasons for conservation practices. I’m not going back to the old ways. I went to no-til because of economics and savings. Let’s not undue all the wondrous things we have done in recent years. We still need to have these conservation programs,” he cautioned.
Daniels added that Ohio farmers are “getting better” at cover crops, acknowledging that there is a cost to this.
Yoder said one of the budget cut areas that worries him is federal crop insurance. “I read today where there is a movement to cut crop insurance because … why should the federal government subsidize farmers by 62 percent? Farmers need to get out on their own with private insurance. But you have to remember that farmers have contributed $4 billion in premiums. This is not a government handout. Believe me, if a private insurance company thought there was money to be made from crop insurance they would be doing it already. There is tremendous risk compared to car insurance,” Yoder pointed out.
“Combining all this with low commodity prices, with trade issues, and bio-fuel issues. The perfect storm could be out there,” Yoder cautioned. “We have to be vigilant. We’ve got to be strong.”
A panel discussion, moderated by Paul Hall of event sponsor Paul Hall and Associates, was held as the conclusion of the seminar involving Yoder, Daniels, Sharp, Davis and Tara Durbin, senior vice president with Farm Credit Mid-America.
Farmers in attendance asked questions about the value of cover crops, concerns about cuts to the EPA, overall cuts in the agriculture budget, trade relations with Mexico, taxes on farms and farmland and the consolidation of the agriculture industry.
Yoder said one of the most important things needed “is a good guest worker program. We need this program to help bring workers here, pay them a wage and then they go home. If we had such a guest worker program, I don’t know if ‘The Wall’ would even be necessary. We can import food or import labor. I know I’d rather import labor. This isn’t rocket science, and we have to work together on this.”
During the event, Davis was honored for his 18 years of service to Nationwide and the Farm Bureau.
A Highland County farmer, he was elected to the Nationwide board of directors in 1999, is board chairman of South Central Power, a member of the Ohio Corn Growers Association, an Ohio State University graduate, past president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and a member of its board of trustees for 10 years. The family currently farms 2,300 acres of corn, soybean, wheat, alfalfa and cattle.
“Many of us at Nationwide are real, full-time farmers, and not everyone can say that. I think that makes us different than other companies,” Davis said. “We, like everyone else, are undergoing many changes. We cannot shy away from these changes. We have to adapt to them.”
There is a future in farming, he told those at the seminar. “One of my pet peeves is the parent who tells their kids that there is no future in farming and they have to find something else. There is nothing wrong taking a different career choice or path, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy if you have the attitude that farming is a bad occupation.”
He said that not all farms will stay in the family. But the decision should be to give the farm the best chance possible.
State Sen. and farmer Bob Peterson, in honoring the retiring Davis, said, “My life and the life of my family has benefited greatly from the sound wisdom and advice over their 30 years of friendship with Ken Davis.”
Gary Brock is editor of Civitas Media monthly farming and agriculture publication Rural Life Today. He can be reached at 937-556-5759.