WASHINGTON — I had never been to Washington D.C. until mid-March, when I attended the annual Ohio Farm Bureau Federation’s presidents’ trip.

I signed up to go to D.C. when I was in high school, but not enough other students signed up, so the trip was canceled and our money refunded.

It was encouraging to finally make the trip and see our nation’s capital. It’s an amazing place, with so many leaders and buildings all in one city. The architecture is some of the finest in the country, and the national cemetery, reflecting pool, cherry trees and the White House lawn are just a few of the must-see landscapes.

During a special tour on the first night, we got to see these things and many more, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Main issue

But above all, most of our time was spent on matters pertaining to agriculture — meeting and communicating with lawmakers about the top issues on farmers’ minds.

We heard both Ohio senators talk, and we heard from a half-dozen representatives of Congress during a forum hosted by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

It was good to hear directly from the people who make our laws and it was even better that they spent some time interacting and answering questions from the people of rural Ohio, who those same laws affect.

So many times, rural America is misunderstood — and, too often, undervalued. But it was obvious from most of the representatives who spoke, that farmers and farm businesses have a very clear importance in our state.

Sen. Sherrod Brown said agriculture “is by far the most important industry in our state.”

Congressman Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, said “You guys (farmers) are actually driving the economy right now. …”

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, told a group of Farm Bureau presidents from her southwestern Ohio district, “The farmer is the good guy. You’re the ones coming in to save America.”

Encouraging

Those are some encouraging words by the people who shape policy affecting farmers.

When you go on a trip like this, you sometimes have to wonder if your message will be heard, how long it will be heard and what will be done about it. I think that’s the challenge facing any group or person who visits D.C. But the good thing is, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation makes this trip every year, and they stay in touch with their leaders year-round.

Farm Bureau members converse with Congressional leaders during county meetings, county fairs and by phone and mail. It was clear that many on the trip had already spoken with their leaders, and several members of Congress knew the people in the crowd by name.

That was an encouraging thing to see, and I think a very good sign that the messages were heard, the issues understood and the efforts worthwhile.

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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