WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) attended a hearing of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, entitled The Importance of Regional Strategies in Rural Economic Development. The hearing addressed key changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program. The changes are part of the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill and will create a first-of-its-kind preference for projects that utilize multijurisdictional development plans when applying for USDA Rural Development grant funding.

“Rural communities are the backbone of Ohio’s economy. But in order to thrive, rural communities need investment in basic infrastructure and economic development projects,” Brown said. “By creating a new approach to the way USDA funds projects, rural communities will have the ability to fund critical projects that promote economic growth and create jobs.”

This innovative approach was first proposed by Brown in 2013 and was included in the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the new law, USDA Rural Development will promote regional development strategies by dedicating funding for projects that are part of long-term economic growth plan. While USDA-Rural Development is often the lender-of-last resort for financing one-time costs when local budgets are tight, Brown’s amendment provides local entities with the ability to maximize Rural Development programs in a way that generates economic growth and improves the quality of life in rural America.

During today’s hearing, Brown also discussed efforts to boost biobased manufacturing in rural Ohio. In March 2012, Brown first announced his "Grow it Here, Make it Here" Initiative aimed at strengthening the biobased products industry by expanding markets and creating jobs. With more than 130 Ohio companies already producing biobased products, new provisions in the Farm Bill – modeled after Brown’s legislation – will help bolster Ohio’s leading industries: agriculture and manufacturing. In January, Brown joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to tour Plastic Suppliers, Inc. a Columbus based manufacture of 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.

With one in seven Ohio jobs related to the food and agriculture industry, Brown has been a staunch advocate for Ohio’s agricultural industry and rural communities. Brown has held more than 200 roundtables throughout the state, and is the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and served on the 2014 Senate farm bill conference committee.