Agriculture

After years of bumper crop of taxes, farmers get some relief

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After years of watching their taxes valuations grow like weeds, local farmers are now seeing their property taxes drop. While that is good news for farmers, it’s shifted some of the tax burden to homeowners. Every six years, state mandated full reappraisals are done on all properties in the county. Updates are conducted every three years. Later this month, the Wood County Auditor’s Office will send out notices of the new valuations to local farmers. Prior to 1974, farmers were taxed based on the market value of their land – that’s how much it would sell for, explained Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich. So 40 acres of farmland on the edge of Perrysburg would be taxed at a much higher rate than 40 acres outside of Bloomdale. That created a lot of pressure on some farmers to sell their land because they couldn’t afford the property taxes. “Farmers were being taxed off their land,” Oestreich said. So the state changed its formula, and started setting valuations based on the amount that could be produced on the acreage. In Wood County, that covers approximately 380,000 acres – with about 81 percent of the county’s total acreage used for agriculture. “The income potential is the same,” per bushel of corn in Perrysburg Township as it is in Bloom Township, said Brian Jones, the Current Agricultural Use Valuation specialist in the Wood County Auditor’s Office. Factored into the valuation are the different soils, with Wood County having about 200 different soil types. Nearly two-thirds of county farmland is Hoytville clay, which is just above average soil quality for farming, Jones said. The CAUV formula worked in favor of the farmers in 2005, when the lowest values in the history of the program were appraised. Farmland was “dirt cheap,” and farmers got the benefit of lower taxes. When the 2008 updates rolled around, the values had doubled. Agricultural land valued at $350 an acre jumped up to about $780 an acre. The tax rates went from $4 to $8 an acre, which was still quite low, so few farmers complained, Oestreich and Jones explained. “It was fueled by good yields, high crop prices and increasingly low interest rates,” Oestreich said. “It was a perfect storm of sorts.” In 2011, the values doubled again, with some farmland at $1,770 an acre and taxes up to $25 an acre. “That’s when we really started to get pushback,” Jones said. “That opened a lot of people’s eyes,” Oestreich said. “Imagine if the value of your house went from $150,000 to $300,000” in a three-year period. “That’s a tough pill for farmers to swallow.” Several farmers accused the government of raising the valuations in order to collect more taxes. A meeting was held to explain the increases to local farmers….


Best farm practices for Lake Erie Watershed to be discussed at ag breakfast

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY An environmental expert with the Ohio Lake Erie Commission will discuss Maumee River watershed best management practices for agricultural producers at the Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum, Thursday, Oct. 19 from 8 – 9:30 a.m.  The event is hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology  at the Agricultural Incubator Foundation (AIF). Environmental specialist Dr. Sandra Kosek-Sills will share information on the Ohio Domestic Action Plan and how this will advance state level efforts toward proposed nutrient reduction targets. OLEC’s role is to preserve Lake Erie’s natural resources, to protect the quality of its waters and ecosystem, and to promote economic development of the region by ensuring the coordination of policies and programs of state government pertaining to water quality, toxic substances, and coastal resource management. Arrive early, as breakfast and informal networking will start at 8 a.m., with the program to follow.  The cost is just $10 per person when you RSVP in advance, or $12 per person at the door without RSVP (cash or check) which includes breakfast and networking opportunities. The Northwest Ohio Ag-Business Breakfast Forum is an educational networking opportunity to provide information on current issues, trends and programs available to the agricultural community and those who support its advancement. The AIF is located at 13737 Middleton Pike (St. Rt. 582) in Bowling Green.  Walk-ins are welcome, but guests are encouraged to reserve a seat in advance by visiting ciftinnovation.org.


Scruci fields questions from farming community on bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci faced a tough crowd Monday evening – members of the local farming community, looking for information on the school district’s 6-mill bond request for buildings. The bond issue could be a hard sell to farmers, since owners of large amounts of acreage will be among those most affected by the property tax on the November ballot. This was the third time the superintendent has met with members of the farming community. And each time he has not pushed for them to pass the bond issue. Instead, Scruci has suggested they ask themselves two questions. “Does this help move the community forward and is it good for kids?” Then came the tougher one. “Can you afford it?” “We know there are people in this community who can’t afford it,” Scruci said. And they have to cast their votes accordingly. That doesn’t mean they are against the school district or the students, he added. But the district cannot wait until everyone in the district can afford new schools, he said. “This community will never grow and our kids will not get what kids in every other district in our area are getting,” Scruci said. The superintendent fielded questions about why the district can’t use an income tax, which wouldn’t hurt local farmers as much. An income tax cannot be used to pay for a building project, he explained. What about an increase in sales tax, someone asked. The schools have no way to increase sales tax, Scruci said. One man said the length of the bond issue – 37 years – poses a problem for smaller farmers. “Can we sustain it, with our current income? It’s highly unlikely,” the farmer said. Another farmer questioned why BGSU students, who are temporary residents in Bowling Green with no property tax responsibilities, would be allowed to vote on the school bond issue. “College kids are allowed to vote on it? That ain’t right,” he said. “There’s a lot of problems with the way schools are funded,” Scruci said. One woman in the crowd thanked Scruci for being transparent. “I don’t feel like you’re trying to trick us,” she said. Scruci also explained why Bowling Green was not using state help on the project. The state formula for aiding building projects ranks Bowling Green as an affluent district based on the number of residents and the size of the district. However, the formula fails to take into account the number of college students and the amount of farmland, Scruci said. Consequently, the state would only give Bowling Green 12 percent of the building costs. That compares to 80 percent for Elmwood and 55 percent for Otsego. Once the state gets involved, it takes over the project, Scruci said. “It’s not worth it,” for…


Farmers, bar owners, beer drinkers gather to toast BG Beer Works’ all-local brew

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News W.C. Fields made its debut in Bowling Green Monday night. No, a cynical comic zombie W.C. Fields didn’t lumber into town. W.C. Fields is the latest brew from Bowling Green Beer Works, and the name stands for Wood County fields, because that’s where the grain and the hops needed to produce the pilsner originated. Farmers, business proprietors, politicians, and those with a taste for craft beer assembled at the brew pub Monday to celebrate the new beer. Justin Marx, the owner of Bowling Green Beer Works, said the beer was a labor of love made from hops and barley grown locally and brewed by Roger Shope into a traditional German pilsner, the “granddaddy” of American beers. The celebration wasn’t just for its crisp taste with just a hint of those local hops, but for the doors the brew opens for local farmers. Some had come in from the hop yard at the Ag Incubator where hops had been harvested that day. Brad Bergefurd, of the Ohio State Extension Service, said that hops provide another crop for small farmers without the large acreage needed to have a viable corn and soybean operation. Hops are labor intensive, he said. Zack Zientek, who works at the Ag Incubator, testified to that.  He checks the hop vines six times a day. But the price they fetch, Bergefurd said, is higher than corn and soybeans. Hops used to grow in Ohio, he said, until Prohibition killed the demand. Now the Extension Service is exploring bringing hops back to service the burgeoning craft brewing business. He said when and another OSU professor first discussed the possibilities six years ago, there were about 30 craft brewers in the state. Now there are about 200. The Ag Incubator site is one of three hop yards in the state the other two got funding through the Us Department of Agriculture. The funding for the Wood County site was eliminated, but the Hirzel family stepped up and provided the in-kind services needed. Craig Martahus, of Haus Malts, said W.C. Fields was “taking us back in time” when beer was brewed from local ingredients. “We’re coming back to a real local product that tastes really good.” He praised the barley grown by Ron Snyder of Pemberville for making that possible. Snyder said he started growing barley because he wanted a crop other than corn and beans. Barley has multiple advantages. It is a winter crop that serves as ground cover and prevents erosion and keeps nutrients in the soil. “He takes care of his soil,” Martahus said. “What’s happening in Lake Erie is significantly impacted by the amount of corn that is grown,” he continued. “Corn requires a tremendous amount of fertilizer and that can run of into the water and cause the algae growth.”…


Portage River cleanup opens floodgates to complaints

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ten years after the petition was filed, the Portage River project will finally be moving forward. But not everyone along the river is happy about how it will affect their land and their wallets. More than 80 people crowded outside the Wood County Commissioners Office on Tuesday for the final hearing on the river cleanup. Some had waited a decade for the project to be approved.  Others, however, were unhappy about paying for the project, didn’t want county workers on their land, and worried that the cleanup upstream will cause more flooding downstream. But as the hearing came to a close, the county commissioners from all three counties involved voted in favor of the river cleanup. The project is the biggest river project undertaken in Wood County in terms of area, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. It follows 46 miles of the south and east branches of the Portage River, covering 111 square miles of watershed in Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties, affecting about 8,200 parcels of land. While the size of the project is great, the scope is not. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. The estimated cost of the project – $658,914 – will be divided among the landowners, based on the benefits their properties are expected to experience. When county engineer staff walked the river routes after the petition was filed a decade ago, there were approximately 243 log jams, 4,300 dead, fallen or leaning trees. It is believed there are now many more downed trees due to ash borer beetles. As the hearing was held Tuesday, photos of blocked waterways were shown on large screens in the front of the room. “The pictures speak very loudly,” said Gary Harrison, a farmer and one of the original petitioners with Jack Stearns. When the logjams are removed, the creeks will stop rerouting themselves and stop “chewing out the banks,” he said. “We tend to do maintenance on our automobiles, we tend to do maintenance on ourselves,” Harrison said. But the trees along the river branches have been allowed to die and create blockages. “A lot of them are ending in the creek.” “These logjams are huge. They need to be removed,” Harrison said, stressing that the cleanup with reduce flooding. “The water’s not going to stay and have a party, it’s going to get to where it needs to get.” Another farmer spoke out in favor of the project. “It don’t take a rocket scientist to look at those pictures and see that something needs to be done. We…


County flooded with calls about Portage River cleanup

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 9,500 letters have been mailed out by the county to the owners of parcels that drain into the south and east branches of the Portage River. The letters are one of the final steps in a river cleanup process that has taken a decade. The Portage River project is the biggest river cleanup ever attempted by the county – covering 46 miles of waterway. The notices mailed out alert the landowners of their estimated assessments for the river cleanup and of a hearing scheduled for Aug. 22. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. However, the notices have led to a flood of phone calls to the Wood County Engineer’s Office – many of them from people questioning their responsibility to help fund the project. “We’re getting a lot of calls. ‘What’s this got to do with me? My water doesn’t go there,’” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the typical comments from callers. Many landowners don’t realize where their water drains – they just know that it goes away after heavy rains, Musteric said. Though the river cleanup project is the longest ever undertaken in Wood County, it is less extensive than many projects in the past. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. “This one is actually very mild,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the Portage River cleanup plans. But while the cleanup may be minor, the distance is massive. In addition to the miles of waterway in Wood County, the project also includes portions in Hancock and Seneca counties. That is likely the reason that it’s taken 10 years to get to this point of a final hearing on the cleanup. The project was initiated by Jack Stearns, a Bloom Township farmer who was tired of his fields flooding. He circulated a petition, which was signed by many other farmers along the river who were also weary of losing crops when the river overflowed its banks. That was in 2007. Stearns and the others waited as the project drowned due to its own mass. Meanwhile, the logjams and debris in the river have just worsened. When county engineer staff walked the river routes after the petition was filed, there were approximately 243 log jams, 4,300 dead, fallen or leaning trees. It is believed there are now many more downed trees due to ash borer beetles. Stearns started out the process a patient man. But as he watched the river repeatedly flood his fields, his patience ran out. “We’re losing topsoil all the time,” Stearns, who desperately wanted the river cleared out in his lifetime,…


County fair history – hoochie-coochie girls, a hanging and much more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Fair’s history is steeped in far more than prize steers, skillfully stitched quilts and homemade pies. Those county residents who think the fair has a bland story to tell, may not know about the cholera outbreak that drastically cut attendance in 1854, the hoochie-coochie girls who stirred up trouble in 1896, or the ostrich races in 1962. Or that in 1883, fairgoers could purchase side tickets to watch the hanging of Carl Bach, who murdered his wife with a corn knife. And few probably realize the pressure from the H.J. Heinz Co. in the late 1920s to change the fair date so it didn’t conflict with tomato harvest, because the company couldn’t find enough employees to show up at work to bottle the ketchup during the fair. According to records compiled by Dick Martin and the county genealogical society, since 1851 the Wood County Fair has jumped around from Bowling Green, to Perrysburg, to Portage, to Tontogany, and back again many times. In fact, for a series of years it was held in two towns because of warring fair factions. This year’s Wood County Fair begins Monday, and bears little resemblance to the first county fairs, except for the ability to attract people from around the county to reconnect with friends and recognize agricultural prowess in the region. The county fair was, for many, the event of the year. It attracted families in their best clothing for food, music and competitions. Some records show that the Wood County Fair had the top attendance of any county fairs in the state. Old black and white photos show lines of horses and buggies, then later lines of old automobiles, in the area that is now the Country Club golf course. The fairs have always given businesses an opportunity to advertise their products. Back in 1920, there was a booth called the “Wife Saving Station,” which boasted the latest in home plumbing equipment. The official program for the 1906 Wood County Fair included advertisements for businesses offering horseshoeing, the best men’s shoes in the city for $3.50, rooms at the Hotel Millikin for $2 a day, and a hatter who could make old hats look like new. In 1908, the papers talked of animal shows featuring trained lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, pumas, bears, monkey and baboons, and exhibits only found at big expositions and large fairs. And the concessions, well, they promised to be “a heap doing.” In 1928, harness racing and live music had people packed in like sardines, the papers reported. Local fair officials bragged that the Wood County Fair was far better than the Ohio State Fair. This year’s fair is offering outhouse races, but there were also some unusual races throughout the history of the fair. For example,…


Scout concerned about effect of CAFOs on water quality

Dear BG Independent News, I am a Life Scout from Troop 777 of Toledo, Ohio. I am writing to you to voice my concerns about the effect concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s have on the recent Lake Erie algae blooms. According to the Sierra Club, there are 146 registered CAFO’s currently in the western Lake Erie Basin. The CAFOs are responsible for generating 700,000,000 gallons of animal waste each year, which is more than the sewage produced by the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago combined. There is a possibility that the waste is seeping out of the storage lagoons, and into the ground, leading to the contamination of nearby groundwater. additionally, the waste is spread directly onto crop fields, resulting in the run-off of excess nutrients into Lake Erie and the feeding of the dangerous algae.   This issue does not only affect this generation, but future generations to come. My wish is for those who read this to help stop the CAFO’s from aiding in dangerous algae blooms, and help make the lives of the citizens healthier. Sincerely, Bryan Fitzpatrick


Farming & food are a family affair for the Froboses

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bob Frobose’s father didn’t want to keep his son on the farm. After a few bad years, Frobose said, his father sold his herd when he retired in 1974. When Frobose graduated from high school in 1971, and decided not to go to college where he hoped to play basketball, he stayed in the food industry, training to be a meat cutter in a small grocery chain. He’s still a meat cutter, but now he owns the store. And he raises the cattle he processes. He had no problem keeping his own sons in agriculture. All three – Ben, Jake and Zack – are involved in the family business, which now has a number of enterprises. And with grandchildren now romping around the barn, they look forward to this being a fifth generation operation. Frobose told the family’s story during a Food Processing from Farm to Plate event, sponsored by the Wood County Farm Bureau earlier this month. The tour began fittingly in the Frobose barn in Pemberville. “Dad had made it pretty clear that after he retired he didn’t want me to have anything to do with farming,” Frobose said. “He felt there were better opportunities off the farm.” Frobose said he had a good upbringing on the farm though. Both working with the animals, and shooting baskets wherever he could hang a hoop. He joked that now he could tell everyone he was a good player because no one remembers otherwise. “You’re still good,” a grandson chimed up. His father’s attitude toward agriculture didn’t mellow at all in his old age. When his grandsons got steers to show at the fair, “he didn’t even like that,” Bob Frobose said. That was shortly before his death in 1989. A few months later, Frobose’s mother approached him: “I bet you’d like to get some cattle back in the barn wouldn’t you?” In 1990, he had 60-75 head of cattle, and an almost 40-year-old barn, and some learning to do. Working with his father, he said, he just did what he was told. Now he had to now re-educate himself “so basically you don’t kill the animals. … We had some growing pains.” The farm no also raises pigs in fall through spring. That includes having to find market for the meat. At one point, it was sold in Whole Foods. While the meat can’t be sold as organic, the beef is as close to organic as it can get without earning that designation. “We don’t use and antibiotics or growth hormones in the feed,” he said. In 1999, the Frobose family bought the Meat Locker, a landmark business in downtown Pemberville. Frobose ran the farm while working his other job getting up at 3 in the morning. He was working 90-100 hours a week….


Young African leaders visit community garden, discuss sustainability

Submitted by THE COMMON GOOD Members of the Young African Leaders Initiative’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders gathered with local volunteers at the community garden this past Saturday to see an example of small-scale sustainable farming on Saturday. The YALI members took some time to work the garden and harvest some vegetables before coming together to partake in a roundtable discussion about sustainability. The group discussed comparisons of agriculture in Africa versus agriculture here, as well as cultural views and practices embracing sustainability. The presence of different perspectives provided insight on global views regarding sustainability. To catch a glance of small-scale sustainable farming yourself, stop by the community garden located at the Peace Lutheran Church (1021 W. Wooster St. Bowling Green, OH 43402). Take a look at the communication board at the garden or visit commongoodbg.org for more information.


Wood County to direct growth with new land use plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The new Wood County Land Use Plan does more than give lip service to organized development – it’s added some teeth. Recently the Wood County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the new land use plan, which will direct growth to areas with the roads, waterlines and sewer lines to handle it – while maintaining the agricultural and natural areas that are also important to the county. “It’s nice because you have zoning, and zoning is great for directing growth, said Dave Steiner, director of the county planning commission. But the land use plan takes it a step further. “Without a plan, you don’t have something to fall back on.” So if a developer wants to rezone some acreage in the middle of prime farmland for industrial use, the land use plan helps back up the rejection by the county and townships, Steiner said. The plan takes into consideration the latest census information, demographics and development. The plan also looks at “reinvestment areas,” where previous development has “fallen by the wayside” and may need a jumpstart with brownfield development, Steiner said. And the plan defends agricultural areas that are still vital to the county’s economy. The county had outgrown the last land use plan, which had been adopted in 2007. “It was not nearly as comprehensive as this one,” Steiner told the commissioners. The guiding principles of the land use plan are as follows: Support sustainable land use and development patterns, and identify and protect natural and environmental resources. Protect prime agricultural land and support agricultural production. Target economic development areas to support and attract employment generating uses. Identify sensitive natural areas for protection, possible areas for recreation in coordination with these natural areas, and historic or cultural sites to protect. Make efforts to promote redevelopment and reinvestment in areas with existing infrastructure and services and strategically manage the outward expansion of suburban development particularly in townships with the greatest growth pressures. The land use plan was developed by McBride Dale Clarion from Cincinnati, after multiple public meetings to gather citizen input. “I feel we have really addressed the issues” that impact land use in the county, Steiner said. The plan is available for public viewing at the county planning commission, at the county commissioners office, and online at http://planning.co.wood.oh.us. The land use plan can be used by other governmental entities in the county to help steer growth as well, according to Emily Crow, who helped develop the plan. “There was a very conscious effort to create a tool that the townships can use and the smaller villages can use.” Because the plan is more detailed than those in the past, it gives more guidance, yet “this adds a lot more flexibility,” Crow said. “The purpose of all this is to give a…


Farms are victims, & part of the solution, as climate changes

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Farmers are in the crosshairs of climate change. The climate is moving south, said Neocles Leontis, one of the founders of the Black Swamp Green Team. That means as the years go by our weather will be more like what we associate with areas further south, and that means problems for agriculture. The Black Swamp Green team is a loose-knit alliance of faith communities, advocacy groups, non-profits, and individuals that promotes energy efficiency, renewal energy, and sustainability. As Pastor Deb Conklin, of Peace Lutheran said: “Who we are is whoever shows up when we make a decision.” On Sunday the team hosted the Creation Celebration at Peace Lutheran. The event focused on agriculture, the challenges it faces, the ways of addressing those challenges, and its role in combating climate change. Alan Sundermeier, of the Ohio State University Extension Service, catalogued the dangers. The effects of climate change can harm farms, whether it’s increasingly severe rainstorms or drought. Drought, Sundermeier said, poses the greatest danger. High water rarely destroys an entire crop. Drought can. But unpredictable weather, such as can late freeze, can also play havoc with crops. “The variability is more severe.” That severe weather can also carry pests with them. People have to keep in mind that: “Whatever we do, whatever small part we play, affects the rest of the world in big and small ways.” The effects of rising temperature are many. Leontis noted that 2016 was the warmest year on record. Sundermeier showed a slide of a dry, brown field. That field should be green, he said. What could the farmer do to prevent such conditions? “There are ways we can, maybe not totally mitigate, but maybe improve the productivity of our soils in Northwest Ohio when these sort of conditions happen,” he said. “They will happen, maybe floods, maybe drought. That’s what we’re faced with in agriculture, and we have to find ways to deal with it if we’re going to survive.” The key is healthy soil. That’s not just good for farming, but for the atmosphere as well. Soil is a “natural sink for carbon,” he said. “We want it in the soil, where it should be, not in the atmosphere.” Farmers think in terms of “organic matter,” he said. “That’s where the life is in the soil and where the active nutrients are.” In the 1980s, agricultural experts started promoting no-till practices where the field were left as is after harvest, not plowed under. But there was missing a piece, Sundermeier said. Farmers came to realize this needed to be paired with the planting of cover crops that could help break up soil and regenerate it. And best is a mix of cover crops, he said, that complement each other. More effort and money, he said, are being…


Creation Care Celebration to be held on Sunday

The Black Swamp Green Team’s second Creation Care Celebration will take place Sunday, April 23 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at Peace Lutheran Church, 1201 Martindale Rd at W. Wooster in Bowling Green. The event celebrates local efforts, organizations and leaders practicing good stewardship by increasing awareness and practices for sustainable renewable energy use and healthy living. Lunch will be included, as will music by the Peace Band. Keynote presentation and panel will be on the topic of sustainable and regenerative agriculture by Don Schooner of Schooner Farms, Alan Sundermeier from the Ohio State University Extension Office, and Paul Herringshaw of Bowling Green. There will be recognitions, displays, and electric car test drives. A tour of Schooner Farms will immediately follow the event at 3:30 pm. The Black Swamp Green Team is a collaboration of faith communities, advocacy groups, non-profit entities, and individuals engaged in promoting and practicing good creation care among itself and its constituents so as to: implement energy efficiency; the use of renewable energy; the production and delivery of local renewable energy; and, thereby, improve its overall stewardship of creation.


Velasquez finds his fight for immigrant laborers to be more urgent than ever

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Toledo area has anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 undocumented immigrants. But every week, more are rounded up and shipped out from the Toledo airport, according to farm labor leader Baldemar Velasquez. “Every Tuesday morning, there are more men and women in shackles being boarded onto planes,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon. Many are being sent back to Mexico through expedited deportations, without being allowed to see an attorney and without being given their due process, he said. “I don’t know how they are getting away with that,” Velasquez said about ICE and border patrol. “One-hundred years from now, people will look back at us like they do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” when the law required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, he said. “The fact that we are accommodating such a practice is un-American.” Velasquez grew up as a migrant farm laborer, born in Texas and traveling from field to field in the Midwest. Based on those experiences he went on to create the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in response to the poor treatment of farm workers. That organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, still works to achieve justice for migrant workers. Velasquez, who spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church north of Bowling Green, grew up dirt poor, with a work ethic stronger than most of his white classmates, and with stamina that just didn’t quit. “You always have to finish the job,” he said. “You start that row, you’ve got to finish it. You start that field, you’ve got to finish it. When you’re a farm worker, it doesn’t matter” if you are tired. As an adult, Velasquez has fought for decent pay for farm laborers through FLOC. “Give us a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. That’s all we want.” Using boycotts and other strategies, FLOC fought in the past for the laborers in the fields and scored victories over giants like Campbell Soup, Vlasic and Mount Olive pickles. Velasquez is still fighting for farm workers – now working to allow them to stay in the U.S. He has heard it all from the other side. “What don’t you understand about illegal?” he has been asked. If Americans don’t want Mexicans here, then maybe they should reconsider policies such as NAFTA, which displaced many Mexican workers and caused an explosion of immigration to the U.S., he explained. Thousands of Mexican farmers could no longer compete with the American farmers who have far better equipment and the benefit of government subsidies, Velasquez said. “There is no wall, no impediment that can get in a man or woman’s way to feed their families,” he said. “If you don’t want them to come here, let’s talk about not displacing them.” Velasquez has also heard the arguments about Mexican…


‘Right to Repair’ would be good for consumers

(Submitted by Michael Oberdick, president of iOutlet in Bowling Green. Oberdick has testified in Nebraska and lobbied in Tennessee for ‘right to repair’ bills. He was elected to the Board for Right to Repair and started an effort in Ohio to get a bill on the table in 2018. He is working with farm bureaus in Northwest Ohio, since this affects them.) As an average appreciator of your iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, you may or may not have heard about this little thing called ‘Right to Repair’. Basically, repair shops both large and small are working together to pass legislation that would win local repair shops like mine access to parts, service manuals, and diagnostic tools from electronics manufacturers at a fair price. This sounds good for me, and it is, but it’s really, really good for you. Let me tell you why. But before I do that, let me clarify something: this isn’t just for Apple devices, or even just electronic gadgets. According to the Repair Association, there is good to be had in the industries of agriculture, automotive, consumer electronics, information technology, medical, appliances, equipment resellers, and industrial equipment. Many of you know that I’m homegrown in the farmlands of Northwest Ohio. Here in Northwest Ohio, we do lots of farming, and we use lots of John Deere to do it. But, let’s say something goes wrong with my combine or my tractor. Today’s John Deere is so sophisticated that you can’t figure out what’s wrong without special equipment. And your average farmer doesn’t have access to this equipment. Instead, he has to call out a technician to diagnose his problem. Often, the first-level tech isn’t enough to solve the problem, and he has to call out a second-level tech to diagnose and fix the problem. All this can take days or a week to sort out. As a farmer, It’s not a fun place to be, biting your nails during harvest time, hoping your equipment gets fixed before it rains, especially when you could fix it yourself if you had access to the parts and tools you need. First, Right to Repair will give you more repair options because pricing will be competitive! Third-party repair shops will be able to compete with manufacturers and larger repair chains because they’ll all have access to the same parts. For example, we suspect that Apple’s replacement screens cost $28 to make. As third-party repair shops, we pay several times that for parts, and those costs get passed in part to the consumer. Not only that, but your options will have access to more service material than ever. That’s because Right to Repair legislation will not only make parts available, but service-level manuals and diagnostic tools. These will allow repair professionals to have even better training and be able to diagnose…