Tackling a drug problem that impacts the whole community, ensuring quality water and modernizing the CAUV tax were among the issues addressed Monday morning at a Highland County Farm Bureau policy development meeting.
The annual get-together is designed for the Farm Bureau to gather input from stakeholders including elected officials and representatives from a variety of agriculture, extension and soil and water agencies.
Nathan Brown, president of the Highland County Farm Bureau, said the purpose of garnering input from various officials is to “talk about the issues they’re facing and see if there’s any policy we can support” at the local, state or federal level to improve the overall community.
A policy committee meeting coming up Wednesday will finalize a set of recommendations that will be voted on at the annual membership meeting Aug. 1, said Brown. Farm Bureau has about 760 members in Highland County, he said.
County elected officials in attendance Monday at the meeting held at The Times-Gazette’s community room included commissioners Shane Wilkin, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton, judge Rocky Coss, sheriff Donnie Barrera, auditor Bill Fawley and recorder Chad McConnaughey.
Among others on hand were Virginia Purdy, chair of the policy development committee, Dave Dugan from the Highland County extension office, Pam Bushelman and Larry Shannon from the Highland County Soil & Water Conservation District, Lee Walker and Remi Parry from the Natural Resources Conversation Service, Kyle Arn from the Highland County Health Department, Jim Faust and other Farm Bureau board members.
On Monday, attendees heard Coss, Barrera and the commissioners discuss the challenges of fighting drug abuse in Highland County, and talked about the controversial use and high cost of the drug Narcan to rescue overdose victims.
Brown said later that while some people say Narcan should not be used and overdose victims should suffer the consequences, that stance is not reasonable.
Brown said the drug epidemic “is affecting the whole county. It affects everybody and anybody.” He said it’s important to rescue the next generation of Highland Countians from the drug scourge.
Coss also discussed a proposal in the state budget that would eliminate prison sentences for fifth-degree felony convictions and instead send convicts to local jails, which are already overcrowded.
“This is a cataclysmic policy shift” with substantial unintended consequences, said Coss.
Brown said Highland County farmers do a good job protecting the water supply, which does not have the problems experienced in some areas not too far away. He said local farmers “are good stewards with the land,” and are responsible in their use of chemicals and fertilizers.
He said Farm Bureau is pushing for changes in the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) tax. The CAUV tax, which was implemented by state voters through an amendment to the Ohio constitution in 1973, taxes farmland based on its agricultural value rather than market value. But it has seen sharp increases in recent years.
“We’re not trying to lower taxes just because they’re too high,” Brown said. Instead, many factors that went into formulating the tax are outdated now, he said.
Policies developed during similar Farm Bureau meetings last year included an emphasis on school safety and cleaning up blighted properties, assets to fight the war on drugs, encouraging participation in the Century Farm program, and urging long-term funding of the Federal Crop Insurance Program, among others.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at [email protected]