With Farm Bill Negotiations Underway, Brown Outlines Priorities to Strengthen Farm Programs and Rural Communities, Reduce the Deficit, and Invest in Nutrition for Needy Families

Brown Joined Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Farm Bureau and Lisa Hamler-Fugitt of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks To Outline Why Combining Support for Farmers and Rural Communities With Nutrition Assistance for Needy Families is Critical to Longterm Farm Bill Investments

WASHINGTON, D.C. –With the 2013 farm bill negotiations underway, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a member of the Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee and the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, today held a new conference call to highlight current negotiations and discuss key provisions that overhaul the farm safety net, bolster rural economic development, support biobased manufacturing, and ensure access to healthy and affordable food.

“Passing a farm bill is essential to supporting a key industry in Ohio,” Brown said. “The Senate has passed legislation that is fair to farmers and provides reforms taxpayers deserve. I will continue to focus on eliminating direct payments, improving crop insurance, and bolstering rural economic development, local food production, and biobased manufacturing. We also must ensure that SNAP benefits remain intact for those working class families with children, seniors, and disabled that rely on this program. I am hopefully that we will be able to put aside partisan differences and pass this long overdue bill.”

Brown was joined on the call by Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President of the Ohio Farm Bureau, the State’s largest general farm organization representing more than 200,000 members in all 88 counties. Fisher stressed the importance of passing a farm bill that protects taxpayers while preserving and strengthening the farm safety net for Ohio farmers.

"Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates the Senator's leadership role on the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Farm Bill conference committee.  Senator Brown understands the importance of a Farm Bill that has market-driven commodity programs; preserves a strong safety net for Ohio farmers; ensures a safe and abundant food supply and continues the very important crop insurance program," said Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.  

Also on the call was Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Foodbank, who highlighted the need to invest in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which nearly 1.8 million Ohioans rely upon for assistance. During 2013, the total average monthly benefit for a SNAP recipient in Ohio was $132.00 per person monthly, or $4.33 per person per day.

“Funding federal hunger relief programs is a smart investment.  It makes sense fiscally and is a cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars and an investment in our nation’s future.  Hunger increases health care costs, lowers worker productivity, harms children’s development and diminishes their educational performance – these are costs that we cannot afford. Millions of low income struggling families in our state need our help, and we need action now. Our Foodbanks and 3,300 member charities strongly urge Congress to oppose any Farm Bill that cuts SNAP in a time when food assistance is needed the most,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director, Ohio Association of Foodbanks 

A summary of key provisions of the farm bill follows.

Protecting Taxpayers while Ensuring a Strong Safety Net for Farmers: The centerpiece of the deficit reduction measures in the bill is the new Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program, which is based on the bipartisan Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management Act (ARRM) Brown authored with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) last year.  This new approach to farm risk management ends the era of fixed, “direct payments”. ARC is market-based program that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields, making payments to farmers only when the market fails—and only for crops they have actually planted. The bill will save $19.810 billion over 10 years compared to reauthorizing current farm programs.

Brown has been working to reform the farm safety net since he joined the committee. In the 2008 farm bill he worked to include the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program after hearing from a Henry County farmer who attended a roundtable Brown convened.  ARRM builds on the ACRE program and continues this work towards a market-based safety net by eliminating fixed-price support programs, reducing overlap with crop insurance, simplifying application and administrative processes, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

Expanding Development Opportunities for Ohio Communities: Brown helped to secure more than $150 million for key rural development programs in the 2012 farm bill, which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support. The 2013 farm bill draft retains this funding level and other key provisions. Brown’s amendment would advance these reforms by setting aside a portion of USDA Rural Development funds for projects that are part of long-term economic growth strategies.  Over time, Brown would like to see USDA-Rural Development do more to finance projects that generate economic growth, create wealth, and improve the quality of life in rural America, rather than just being the lender-of-last resort for financing one-time costs when local budgets are tight.

Brown’s amendment has been endorsed by the following organizations: American Planning Association; American Public Works Association; Farm Credit Council; Housing Assistance Council; League of Rural Voters; Main Street Project; National Association for Development Organizations; National Association of Counties; National Association of Regional Councils; NCTA – The Rural Broadband Association; National Association of Towns and Townships; National Grange; National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; and Rural Community Assistance Partnership.

Cultivating Markets for Farmers and Increasing Availability of Nutritious Locally-Grown Food: Provisions of Brown’s Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, included in this year’s farm bill, would help Ohio farmers and ranchers sell their products directly to consumers and creating jobs by addressing production, aggregation, and  marketing and distribution needs. It would also ensure that consumers have better access to nutritious, locally-grown food. 

Many of these provisions were included in the farm bill, including: a stronger crop insurance program for specialty crops and organic agriculture; an improved farmers market program that would help boost infrastructure and aggregation facilities; as well as exploring the use of new technologies for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at farmers markets and other direct retail outlets.

Grow it Here, Make it Here: The “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative would boost the manufacture of “biobased” products, made with agricultural materials. With more than 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products, “Grow it Here, Make it Here” would bolster Ohio’s leading industries: agriculture and manufacturing. Many portions of the “Grow it Here, Make it Here” initiative were included in the Farm Bill to support the nearly 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products.

Biobased products are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients—waste streams and renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials.  From natural pet foods and biobased paint, to soy ink and toner, these companies are creating jobs in Ohio’s small towns and rural communities, and generating a link between agriculture and manufacturing.