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News & Press: OTF News

Green Industry Advocacy Day

Wednesday, March 20, 2013  
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Submitted by Andrew Muntz

On Wednesday February 27, green industry members from across the great state of Ohio met in downtown Columbus at the State House to discuss issues important to our day-to-day lives. The time at the Capital was well spent and served as a very positive day for our industry.

The day started in the Verne Riffe building on the 31st floor. The view over Columbus was magnificent while groups from OTF, GCSAA-Ohio Chapters, Nursery Growers of Lake County Ohio, OLA, OLCA, ONLA, OPARR, Winegrowers of Ohio, and Ohio Pest Management Association listened to Ohio’s political figures.

Dave Daniels, the Director of ODA, started the day off by giving an overview of different issues and legislation that will affect our groups. Director Daniels grew up on a farm, and has a lot of experience in the agriculture industry. Right now, the major issues that affect our industry are being addressed in a collaborative effort with ODA, ODNR, and the Ohio EPA. Director Daniels was very positive about the group effort and is optimistic about our industry’s future.

The group then heard from the Senate Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources committee chairman, Cliff Hite. Senator Hite was very entertaining, as well as sincere with the group. Although his time was short because of other meetings, he was very open with the group and extended his open door policy for any concerns. Senator Hite comes from the Findlay area, where agriculture is a major component of life. His area of representation brings agriculture front and center.

The last speaker before lunch was Representative Jack Cera. Representative Cera is from the Eastern part of Ohio, near Steubenville. Representative Cera is the ranking member of the House Agriculture committee. In his community, he has been very active in implementing recycling programs. He was very candid with the group, and answered a variety of questions.

During lunch, the group was very lucky to listen to Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor. Lt. Governor Taylor is a CPA that has been an integral part of the Kasich administration’s first 2+ years. Along with members of our industry, the administration has implemented the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) for making Ohio a more business friendly state. She spent time explaining current legislation as well as answering questions from the group.

After lunch each attendee was able to spend some time with their local representatives and senators and their aides. During this time we were able to discuss some of the most important topics in our industry. When we were not meeting with our congressmen and women, we were able to venture through the state house and sit in on different congressional meetings.

Throughout the day, three major topics were front and center to our industry. Here is a brief explanation of the topics as well as updates on their current status.

Phosphorus - By now most of us have heard about the concerns over phosphorus in our water systems. Large bodies of water such as Grand Lake St. Mary’s and Lake Erie have seen increases in algae blooms over the past few years. The issue of water quality goes beyond agriculture and into the water supply, tourism, and overall environmental impact. As of right now, there is no legislation regarding phosphorus in the House or Senate. This is however an important issue with ODA, OEPA, and ODNR. The collaborative group has been working on some recommendations that they will be releasing in the near future. Members of our industry have participated in the Lake Erie Phosphorus Task Force, The Directors Ag Nutrient Water Quality Work Group, and other task forces and committees. Our industry has been very supportive of the 4R’s (Right fertilizer source at the, Right time, in the Right place, at the Right rate) as well as The Ohio State University’s Extension Services for proper phosphorus application.

House Bill 5: Municipal Tax Reform - This bill has been constructed because of Ohio’s complicated local income tax system. Currently each city/village has it’s own rules and regulations that businesses must keep track of and comply with. This can cause many headaches for businesses that operate in multiple municipalities. This can hinder economic growth and expansion into new markets.

The reform bill would make the tax system simpler, fair and more predictable. HB 5 establishes one set of municipal tax rules and regulations that apply to nearly all Ohio cities that impose business and individual income taxes. The bill will eliminate administrative hassles associated with the current tax system. The overall goal of the bill would be to make Ohio more competitive for new investments and overall job growth. One question that arose about the bill was, if municipalities that did not have current income tax requirements would be forced to impose taxes to follow surrounding townships? The answer from the legislators was that townships that do not have current taxes would NOT have to impose taxes because of HB 5.

House Bill 59: Biennial Operating Budget - This bill has to do with the overall operating budget affecting ODA and ODNR. The current bill has OARDC (Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center) and OSUE (Ohio State University Extension) "flat lined.” This means that they would not receive any increase in funds for their operating budgets. The green industry would benefit with a provision that gives OARDC and OSUE a 3.2% increase, which would conform with overall increases to The Ohio State University.

The day concluded with a reception in the Atrium of the state house. This may have been one of the most beneficial parts of the day because of the very personal interactions that were had with the congressmen and women. Taking the time to really get to know our members of congress in a more social atmosphere brought the day full circle.

I would like to thank all members of the industry that were present. The turn out was fantastic and the participation was outstanding. If you were unable to attend, rest assured that you were well represented by members many organizations. The group displayed a remarkable amount of professionalism, while making sure that our congressional leaders understood the issues that are important to our industry.

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