Brown Speaks To Ohio Farmers at Annual Breakfast

Senator Fought to Secure Several Ohio-Specific Provisions in Bipartisan Farm Bill after Meeting with Ohio Farmers and Stakeholders around the State; Brown is the First Ohioan to Serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in More Than 50 Years

Farm Bureau Breakfast

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) delivered remarks at the Ohio Farm Bureau breakfast in Washington, DC. 

Brown’s remarks at the annual breakfast, as prepared for delivery, follow. 

Sen. Brown Remarks

Ohio Farm Bureau Breakfast

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 

Thank you to OFBF President Frank Burkett for that introduction and for your leadership. Thank you to Adam, Yvonne, Jack, and everyone at OFBF. 

And thank you to the wait staff – we always honor hourly wage earners, who never get paid as much as they deserve 

It’s great to be back with Ohio farmers. 

You may have heard last week that I decided not to run for president – I just couldn’t stay away from these breakfasts. 

But while I was thinking about it, Connie and I made a trip to Iowa. People always mix up our states – four letters three vowels. Square, corn. Ethanol.

We went to a lot of smaller places, we didn’t spend a lot of time in Des Moines. I heard a lot of the same concerns in Iowa that I hear from Ohio farmers. But maybe the biggest takeaway I heard was that just like in Ohio, these small towns feel overlooked and ignored. 

Jobs have moved overseas, while the opioid epidemic has moved in. Farm bankruptcies are up. Prices are low while input costs are high. It’s almost impossible to make a living without off-farm income. 

I’m not going to stop fighting for those places – fighting for all workers, no matter where they live or what kind of work they do is what the Dignity of Work tour was all about and I’m going to keep doing that in the Senate.

And I want to be clear – when I talk about workers, I’m talking about farmers, truck drivers, and the people that work in the fields and dairies across our state. Everyone in this room knows the definition of hard work. 

I’m going to keep fighting for you in the Senate – our work on the Farm Bill is a reminder of how important this job is. 

Look what we accomplished – while cable news was focused on the president’s wall, we passed a Farm Bill with 87 votes, the most votes the bill has ever received in the Senate. 

Many of the ideas in our Senate bill came out of the roundtables we hosted across Ohio over the past two years. We wanted to know what we got right in the last Farm Bill, and what we needed to fix – clearly the farm economy has changed a lot since 2014. 

We listened to farmers and rural communities, we developed solutions, and I fought with—and against—my colleagues to make sure Ohio farmers always had a voice throughout this process. 

We secured important wins for Ohio dairy farmers, as well as defending crop insurance and improving the Average Risk Coverage program that I helped develop with my good friend, the Republican Majority Whip, John Thune of South Dakota. 

We protected funding for critical nutrition programs that feed Ohio families, and we improved conservation programs and made them easier to use. 

We secured permanent funding for local and regional food programs to make it easier for smaller producers to sell directly to consumers, increase their sales, or invest in their operations. And we increased funding for export promotion, to help Ohio farmers sell around the world. 

We know that more needs to be done to increase access to broadband in rural Ohio, so we included a 14-fold increase in funding. It’s only with this level of federal investment that we can ensure that small businesses, farm families, and students have access to high speed internet. 

None of this would have been possible without your input. 

One of my top priorities as we started to start this Farm Bill two years ago was the conservation title. How could we make these programs work better for farmers and taxpayers? 

When Bill Myers hosted a roundtable at his farm—literally across the road from Maumee Bay—we spent two hours trying to figure out how to ensure that this Farm Bill would rise to the scale of our water quality challenges – in the Western Lake Erie Basin, the Ohio River, and across the entire country. 

And the result of that roundtable and many other conversations is an historic bill for water quality. 

The House wanted to gut conservation programs. The Administration wanted to cut them. Yet, in all the meetings we took and groups I met with, I didn’t hear from a single farmer who thought that was a good idea. 

Instead, we made serious reforms to these programs to improve how they’re structured, how they target specific resource challenges, how they’re delivered, and how they’re funded. 

I worked with my Republican colleagues from Iowa to prioritize CRP acres that promote water quality, without taking prime acres out of production. 

We also created a new CRP program—called CLEAR  or the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers Program –that will enroll 5 million acres of farmland that directly protect water quality, and allow CRP to better work in Ohio. 

I also specifically got an amendment in the bill to increase the cost-share for EQIP. 

Instead of the normal 75 percent cost share, the best practices should be eligible for up to 90 percent cost share. So if you’re using the practices that best protect water quality or habitats, the government will pick up 90 percent of the tab. 

This means more cover crops, increased buffers, and nutrients staying on the field, not going into our creeks and streams. 

I also heard from farmers that they like CSP, but it can be too cumbersome. So Senators Grassley, Ernst, and I included provisions that will make CSP easier to use. 

This all adds up to more resources than ever for Ohio farmers who do their part for water quality. 

Our office wants to work with you to make sure that happens – we’re only going to see results for Lake Erie and other waterways if farmers enroll in the programs, and have the right technical assistance. 

You know that the Farm Bill isn’t just about what happens the year we write the bill – this next phase is just as important. 

The president came out with his budget this week and it undoes a lot of the good work we did in this bill – it cuts a bill he just signed by a third. It cuts crop insurance, it cuts conservation programs. 

We need to keep working together to make sure these cuts don’t happen, and that the administration actually implements this bill. 

We want to keep this dialogue open – whether it’s helping you take advantage of new conservation programs, or making sure the administration is implementing the commodity title improvements, as commodity prices continue to decline. 

That’s why I’ll stop here and take some questions. 

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