WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) renewed his call for a five-year farm bill while addressing the Ohio Farm Bureau in Washington, D.C. today. While outlining the Senate’s efforts to pass a farm bill that would reduce the deficit by $23 billion, Brown also discussed efforts to boost economic development and job growth. Although the Senate-passed a five-year farm bill, the Farm, Food and Jobs Act, the House has failed to act. During the speech, Brown, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, renewed his call for Congress to pass a permanent farm bill.
“The primary task before the Agriculture Committees is to write a five-year farm bill—the Senate successfully did this last year and we should be able to do it again,” Brown said. “I look forward to working with the OFBF—and farmers across our state—to advance modern, efficient, and smart farm and food policies while creating jobs and reducing our federal deficit.”
In advance of Senate consideration of the 2012 farm bill, Brown took his “Grown in Ohio” Listening Tour around the state to meet directly with farmers, business leaders, and community officials in advance of Senate consideration of the Farm Bill, guiding Brown’s legislative priorities.
Below are some of the bills Sen. Brown introduced last year:
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). This new approach to farm risk management ends the era of fixed payments. These “direct payments” are replaced by a market-based system that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields, making payments to farmers only when the market fails. The Senate’s bipartisan 2012 farm bill represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades.
Brown has been working to reform the farm safety net since starting in the Senate in 2006. 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.
As incorporated into the Senate-passed bill, changes to the farm safety net and other farm bill programs would save more than $23 billion by ending direct payments, eliminating more than 100 duplicative programs and authorizations, and cracking down on fraud and abuse. By ending the era of paying farmers regardless of need or market conditions and eliminating two other farm subsidy programs – steps first suggested in ARRM – the Senate-passed legislation would save taxpayers money and provide a more responsible risk management approach. Under the bill, farmers receive support only when they suffer a substantial loss through events beyond their control—and only for crops they have actually planted.
Expanding Markets for Farmers and Increasing Availability of Nutritious Locally-Grown Food: Brown also outlined how provisions of his Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, included in the 2012 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.
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. This legislation was included in the Senate farm bill which would reauthorize the existing Rural Broadband Loan Program and add a grant component to the program to target funds to the small towns and rural communities that need it most.
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.
During Senate consideration of the farm bill Brown sponsored an amendment to support rural development, which cleared the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 55-44. Brown’s amendment would fund critical U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development programs that help Ohio communities update wastewater and sewer infrastructure systems, provide access to capital for Ohio agricultural producers and small businesses, and provide technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.