WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, today attended the first official session of the House and Senate Conference Committee for the 2013 Farm Bill. Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:
I want to thank Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Cochran, and their staff, for their work in getting us to this point.
And I appreciate the doggedness of Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson in getting this bill to conference.
The Senate’s Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 is a bipartisan reform bill that that provides tangible, workable solutions that continue our commitment to the hungry, our nation’s farmers, rural communities, and the land -- while saving taxpayers $24 billion.
Over the past two years, I held a series of listening sessions throughout Ohio, where I asked farmers to tell me what this year’s farm bill should look like.
Ohio farmers did more than give opinions, they came up with answers. I’m grateful for their insight, guidance, and invaluable suggestions.
They told me that they don’t need and don’t want direct payments.
So I worked with my friend Senator John Thune of South Dakota on the Commodity Title to improve the safety net and ensure that farm production and planting decisions are determined by the market and not the government program.
Simply put, Ohio corn and soybean farmers must have a program that decouples target prices from planted acres.
That’s why I strongly support the Senate’s Commodity title.
The Senate’s Rural Development and Energy titles provide the mandatory funding and reforms needed to ensure that our nation’s rural communities have the tools they need to succeed.
The bill incorporates many portions of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act that will promote and increase local food production and sales.
The bill also rightly links taxpayer support for crop insurance to farmers’ land management practices and reduces premium support for those farmers who net over $750,000 per year. These are conservation practices that almost every farmer is already doing.
This is good, bipartisan work, and I expect we can resolve the differences around farm programs. We always work those differences out.
What I am concerned about is whether the House’s cuts to SNAP funding and ill-conceived policy riders will prevent us from completing work on the farm bill that America’s rural communities need.
The House’s indiscriminate SNAP cuts and harmful policy proposals would harm everyone: children, seniors, those with disabilities, working parents, and veterans.
The House provisions will cut SNAP payments simply because there aren’t enough jobs out there. Is that the kind of nation we are? Are these the kinds of policies we need?
The choice is clear: do House conferees want to pass the farm bill rural America desperately needs or do they intend to hold up this bill by insisting that we make life even harder for people who are unemployed and down on their luck?
Our farmers feed the world. They are proud to do that, but the House is seeking to break a decades old bond between farmers and those Americans who are going hungry.
I look forward to working with my fellow conferees on a bill that follows the Senate’s Title 1 reforms, strengthens the farm and social safety net, and reaffirms this committee’s long, bipartisan tradition of farm and food policy.