WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following today’s passage of a five-year comprehensive farm bill, 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, released the following statement:
“The Farm Bill is more than just a long-term policy on agriculture; it’s a jobs bill; it’s a food and nutrition bill; it’s an investment in rural communities, and it provides certainty for American farmers and producers,” Brown said. “For three years, I have fought for passage of a bill that balances the need for reform while making smart investments in conservation, nutrition, renewable energy, and rural development programs. This bill achieves that balance. By streamlining programs, reducing regulatory hurdles, and replacing direct farm payments with market-based supports, we now have a system that is more responsive to farmers’ needs and more responsible to taxpayers.”
With one in seven Ohio jobs related to the food and agriculture industry, Brown has been a staunch advocate for passing a five-year farm bill that combined commodity programs with the nutrition title. In October 2013, Brown was named a Senate conferee in an effort to pass a comprehensive, five-year farm bill. In November, Brown joined Ohio Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Jack Fisher and Ohio Association of Food Banks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt to outline his priorities in the conference report.
“Ohio Farm Bureau believes this bill demonstrates considerable fiscal responsibility while providing security to farmers and the public. We appreciate the bill’s strengthening of crop insurance as a risk management tool. We support its provisions that allow farmers to act on market signals for planting decisions and its programs aimed at assisting livestock farmers. We also appreciate its strong conservation measures, and its commitment to feeding programs for children, the elderly and poor. As a member of the agriculture committee and the conference committee, Sen. Brown never wavered in his support for Ohio’s farmers and consumers. Ohio Farm Bureau thanks him for his hard work.” Jack Fisher, Executive Vice President, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.
“It is good that agreement has been reached on a final bill. More than two years in the making is too long. Most of what National Farmers Union advocated for is in total or in part in the final bill. That increased Farm Market funding and livestock disaster relief is included is vital. Ohio farmers want to thank Senator Brown, Chairman Stabenow, Ranking member Peterson, Senator Klobuchar, Chairman Lucas and others committed to good legislation for their commitment to getting a bill that should pass in both chambers. It supports family farmers, ranchers and fishers and most importantly consumers. It is unfortunate that the National Cattleman’s Beef Association is so opposed to the outcome. They are willing, in their opposition, to Country of Origin labeling (COOL) to jettison disaster relief and throw family farmers under the bus in favor or corporate packers, multinational interests and profit. That is precisely why Ohio Farmers Union opposed the increased $1.00 per head proposed check off,” Roger Wise, President, Ohio Farmers Union.
“The 2014 Farm Bill is a real victory for all who care about clean water, healthy soils, and abundant fish and wildlife. Key programs like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Agricultural Easement Program, CRP and CSP will provide landowners key provisions to ensure our Great Lakes watershed stays healthy and productive. Our Senators and members of Congress did a fine job of negotiating through a difficult bill that yields great benefits for everyone – farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers and every citizen that makes their home among the Great Lakes.” Gildo Tori, Director of Public Policy for the Great Lakes/Atlantic Region, Ducks Unlimited.
"Senator Brown recognizes the diversity of agriculture in Ohio. The vital role he played in reinstating funding for programs like the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Value Added Producer Grants, and the Farmer's Market and Local Foods Promotion Program will bolster local food and farm economies throughout Ohio," said Carol Goland, Executive Director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. "Senator Brown's leadership, through the introduction of the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act, expands resources that contribute to the growth of local farmers markets and provide essential support to organic farmers and food entrepreneurs." Carol Goland, Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association
"This day has been a long time coming as farmers from all corners of Ohio have spent years tirelessly advocating for a new farm bill to ensure a safety-net is in place for those years we are faced with circumstances far beyond our control. I join my fellow farmers in thanking Ohio's Congressional delegation who supported a bill to help protect one of Ohio's greatest resources, our agriculture industry, which helps to maintain the most secure and affordable food supply in all of the world." Brent Hostetler, President, Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association.
“It’s been a long road, but today we’re celebrating the Senate passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. OSA thanks Senator Brown for his support of this vital piece of legislation. Soybeans are a big part of Ohio’s economy and the top agricultural export for Ohio. The farm bill will provide market stability and certainty for Ohio’s 24,000 soybean farmers.” Jerry Bambauer, President, Ohio Soybean Association and Auglaize County soybean farmer.
“As Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger, we cannot emphasize enough how important federal nutrition programs are, not only to food insecure Ohioans, but to our state’s economy as a whole. While we are thankful that more severe cuts to SNAP have not been included in this Farm Bill, we know that current SNAP benefits are inadequate for the millions of children, adults, seniors and people living with disabilities that struggle to provide nutritious food for themselves and their families. Our emergency food assistance network is grateful for the increase in TEFAP funding, which will help our foodbanks come closer to meeting record-high demand for help with the basic necessity of food. But most of all, we want to see Ohioans moving out of our emergency food pantry lines and into grocery store lines, where their SNAP benefits are infused back into local economies.” 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 farm payments.” ARC is a market-based program that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields, making payments to farmers only when they face price or yield losses. The bill will save $23 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.
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, the provisions in the Farm Bill will 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 this homegrown industry.
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.
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 that was included in the bill will 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 producers sell their products directly to consumers and create 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. Also included is increased funding for the Value Added Producer grant program that provides assistance to producers and farmers to convert their product into marketable goods as a way to generate additional farm income.
Expanding Access to Broadband for Rural Communities: Brown also introduced legislation, the Connecting Rural America Act, that would strengthen existing USDA programs that provide for the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to underserved, rural communities. Provisions of this legislation were included in the farm bill and will prioritize loan and loan guarantees to providers offering broadband service in underserved areas.
With new or increased broadband access, communities will be able to compete on a level playing field to attract new businesses; schools can create distance learning opportunities; medical professionals can provide cost-efficient remote diagnoses and care; and business owners can expand the market for their products beyond their neighborhoods to better compete in the global economy. The investments will create jobs in the short term and help establish a new foundation for long-term economic growth in rural and Appalachia Ohio.
Conservation: Brown fought to strengthen the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) as a means to help improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin. The RCPP would consolidates four key areas into one program focused on improving soil and water quality, as well as wildlife habitat restoration. Brown has long fought to protect Lake Erie and the Western Lake Erie Basin.
For the first time since 1996, USDA will link crop insurance premium support to protection of highly erodible land and wetlands. Additionally, 60 percent of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds are set aside for livestock operators to invest in cost-shared conservation projects that improve water and air quality and help producers meet their regulatory responsibilities