ST. MARYS — Approximately 250 local members of the Action Committee of Rural Electrification (ACRE) gathered for a political action breakfast sponsored by local electrical co-op, Midwest Electric Inc. The event also kicked of the Midwest Electric’s Member Appreciation Days which run Nov. 6-7.
Matt Berry, CEO of Midwest Electric, thanked the members of ACRE for their continued support and participating in the political process that helps Midwest and other cooperatives provide a safe, affordable, and reliable source of electrical energy.
Three speakers, Patrick O’Loughlin, president and CEO of the Ohio Electrical Cooperatives; Tim Derickson, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture; and State Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, 84th District.
Derickson thanked members for their commitment and contributions in making the right votes to insure a bright future for agriculture in Ohio.
“It all boils down to food safety.” Derickson said. “Having grown up working on the family farm with a milking operation I learned early in life how important it was to have a clean operation; we worked hard to please those inspectors that came to our farm and looked things over, and we kept things clean as they should be; that’s where I learned to respect what the Department of Agriculture did and it later encouraged me to be a part of that great organization.
“Food safety falls on us. Whether growing, processing, packaging, you name it we have a part in it. From farming practices to lab testing we are working hard to insure only the best products end up on the shelves. As consumers in the U.S. we don’t have to worry about our food, sure there are occasional recalls, but they are far and few between compared to the big picture. We look at the health of plants, animals and equipment and work with the soil and water departments and farmers all over the State of Ohio; it’s nice to see that kind of collaboration, working together, it’s going to take everybody to get the job done,” Derickson said.
Derickson also spoke about the hemp industry in Ohio noting it is an up and coming thing with a variety of products.
“The ag-community supports growing hemp as long as it is done so according to state controls. The crop is used for a variety of products from rope to producing medical products but must be inspected by the ag-department and meet specified growing regulations; I believe it’s here to stay.” Derickson said.
He discussed the department’s role in helping farmers manage livestock operations and watching out for diseases.
“There are a lot of bad things out there like African swine-fever, and several diseases that have had devastating effects on hogs in China. We are constantly working to find way to treat these diseases, it’s not a matter of if but when they will finally get here, it’s just a matter of time and we want to be ready,” Derickson said.
Manchester expressed her appreciation for the role Midwest Electrical co-op and agriculture plays in the local community.
“I too have an agriculture background and I’m very proud to be a member of a committee supporting agri-business and feel privileged to serve our local residents as well as countless others in our district and across the state of Ohio. I recently helped work on an amendment to House Bill 183 to allow income tax credits for beginning farmers who participate in a financial management program and for businesses that sell or rent agricultural land, livestock, facilities, or equipment to beginning farmers. This will not only open up a lot of new opportunities, but will also provide encouragement to young people just getting started on the farm,” Manchester said.
O’Loughlin said the Ohio Electric Cooperative’s efforts to maintain a great source of affordable and reliable electricity are important to the community.
“We depend on our political action committees to convey an understanding when working with state and federal governments concerning our role in producing and distributing electrical power. The government needs to keep out of our way and let us do our job,” said O’Loughloin. “Thankfully your votes have helped put the right people in office and changed a lot of things for the better as the current administration is in touch with reality and what is best for all of us. In the past the government said it wanted to help but their strict and unreasonable regulations and controls got in the way of producing an affordable and reliable source of energy making it less attractive to get into investment wise.
“Thankfully much of that has changed, help us keep it that way with how you cast your votes in the future. We will keep doing our best to be compliant and meet all standards and regulations. We have some of the cleanest carbon generators in the world and we’re going to keep it that way. We’re working with other systems and interconnected grids to provide the best service at the lowest possible price,” O’Loughlin said.
O’Loughlin discussed investing time, money and research into other sources of energy like solar and wind farms noting that currently solar has a much brighter outlook than wind technology.
Berry said he is proud of the co-op membership for their continued support.
“We recently scored a 91 percent in customer service; out of over 900 electrical cooperatives across the country, we are in the top 10,” Berry said.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.