PIQUA — Exports, health care, taxes and immigration were all issues discussed at the 2017 Farm Forum hosted by 8th District U.S. Congressman Warren Davidson.
Held at Edison State Community College on March 18, a number of elected and agriculture officials took part in the forum along with Rep. Davidson including 7th District Congressman Bob Gibbs, Executive Vice President Adam Sharp of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and President Trump’s Agriculture Advisory Committee member Fred Yoder.
Each one touched on a number of topics that applied directly or indirectly to agriculture, including trade, infrastructure, regulations, tax reform, healthcare and immigration.
“We have to export. We have to move stuff overseas,” Gibbs said. Gibbs said that President Donald Trump is “taking a tough line” on immigration and looking at bi-lateral trade agreements rather than multi-lateral trade agreements.
In regards to regulations, Gibbs said that the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is “penalizing our small community banks for what happened in ‘08-‘09.” Gibbs and Davidson both called for repealing and replacing Dodd-Frank during the Farm Forum on Saturday.
Gibbs also called for healthcare reform and tax reform.
“It’s falling apart. It’s imploding,” Gibbs said about healthcare, calling the recently introduced American Health Care Act a “rescue plan.”
During the question and answer period later on, Davidson explained that this bill is “not a full repeal” and is “not a full replace” but is a mixture of both in order to get support from Democrats.
“I want to get a yes on it,” Davidson said, adding that “nothing really gets turned off until Jan. 2020.”
Gibbs said that he was “leaning yes” on the bill and that he wanted people to “put your faith in people and the free market.”
“We’re trying to get competition back in this marketplace,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs also mentioned his ideas about tax reform.
“Tax reform needs to be done. Rates are too high,” Gibbs said, adding on that he wanted to “do away with the death tax,” add 100 percent expensing, and add a “territorial tax system.”
In regard to the Farm Bill — as Gibbs said that the 2014 Farm Bill will run out in September — Congress has started hearings.
“The Farm Bill is not a partisan bill,” Gibbs said, saying it was more of a struggle between the midwest and the south.
Gibbs also said that provisions about food stamps are also included in the Farm Bill is to get “votes from suburban representatives.”
Immigration reform was also a topic during Sharp’s and Yoder’s speeches.
“About half of our dairy labor is from outside of the United States,” Sharp said, which Yoder repeated later.
Yoder discussed improving the guest worker program for agriculture. Yoder mentioned a strawberry farmer he spoke with who was letting his strawberries “lay to waste” because he did not have enough people to farm them.
“He doesn’t have enough pickers,” Yoder said.
Sharp also encouraged farmers to look into doing estate planning as the majority of farmers are over the age of 60.
“We don’t want to lose farms simply because of estate shifting,” Sharp said.
Sharp called for increased support of use of technology in agriculture.
“We have to have a conversation on the acceptance of technology in agriculture,” Sharp said.
Sharp also spoke about supporting youth programs that encourage juveniles and young adults to take part in agriculture, whether they are from a farming community or what Sharp called “non-traditional communities.”
“We have strong 4H and FFA in Ohio … 4H and FFA is in our DNA,” Sharp said, adding that they should be supporting other paths to agriculture as well to encourage youth to “be part of the future of it.”
Yoder spoke additionally about being on the Presidential Agriculture Advisory Committee.
“It’s heavily loaded with farmers,” Yoder said about the committee. “These are people that are very strong in their beliefs.” Yoder added that they are not a “rubber stamp” for everything that Trump suggests but that they are there to advise him.
In what to expect from Trump and agriculture, Yoder said, “He believes strongly in market solutions … He also wants to make sure we have the platform for innovation.” Yoder also added, “He wants us to look what policy has been working and what policy hasn’t been working.”
Yoder also discussed a desire for cabinet members supportive of renewable energy as one-third of corn crops go to renewable fuels. Yoder said that he was “worried” about the six to eight cabinet members who appeared to be not supportive of renewable energy.
Infrastructure was also a concern expressed during the Farm Form along with the uncertainty of how improvements to infrastructure will be funded. Yoder said that he had heard ideas of “public-private partnerships” as well as raising the fuel tax.
Davidson disagreed with the idea of raising taxes. He said that about 30 percent of the transportation budget is for “trails and beautification and trains.” Davidson called for “using our highway money for highways.”
The future of crop insurance was also questioned.
Gibbs called for getting “the right people in the right position” who are supportive of crop insurance.
“We need to keep the safety net,” Gibbs said. “It’s going to be tough.”
Yoder called it a “risk management tool” and said, “It’s important that we get it right.”
Sharp also added that about 80 percent of farmers buy crop insurance.
The last topic was Trump and the new opportunities they anticipated with the new administration.
“It’s a different perspective,” Yoder said. “This guy likes markets … I just look forward to market innovations.”
Sharp said he looked forward to regulation reform.
“Common sense,” Gibbs said about what he was excited for.
Davidson repeated Gibbs’ sentiment, adding that he believed Trump would be a “deeds not words” president.
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