Following Senate passage of the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) released the following statement:
"The bipartisan, Senate-passed farm bill is the most significant reform of U.S. agriculture in decades -- saving taxpayers $23 billion while investing in Ohio's number one industry," Brown the first Ohioan on Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and serves as Chairman of its Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, said. "This farm bill is forward thinking, yet realistic. The centerpiece of the bill's deficit reduction efforts is based on a bill I authored with my colleague Senator Thune that would end the era of paying farmers for crops that they don't grow and replace direct payments with market-based supports that's more responsive to farmers and taxpayers. This farm bill is a jobs and innovation bill, an economic relief and development bill, and it affects every American every day."
One in seven Ohio jobs is related to the food and agriculture industry and provisions Brown authored would save taxpayers $23 billion, while creating jobs and boosting rural development. Yesterday, Brown's amendment to support rural development cleared the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 55-44. Brown's amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act -- or the 2012 farm bill -- 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.
"Ohio Farm Bureau appreciates the Senator's leadership role in passing a Farm Bill that saves taxpayers' money; 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.
"The Ohio Farmers Union appreciates Senator Brown's commitment to Rural America through his service on the Senate Ag Committee. His amendment to maintain critical rural development programs will ensure that young farmers, ranchers and fishers in Ohio will have resources available to build the next generation of family farms, while maintaining vibrant and economically strong rural communities," Roger Wise, President Ohio Farmers Union.
"The Nature Conservancy considers the farm bill paramount for conserving public lands in America," said Josh Knight, Executive Director of the Nature Conservancy in Ohio. "We applaud Senator Brown for his leadership in securing strong conservation and forestry titles in the bill. They provide incentives to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners that will result in cleaner water, improved soil conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and increased flood control. All of this means greater economic benefits and quality of life for the people of Ohio."
"On behalf of Ohio's sustainable family farmers and the consumers who support them, we are grateful to Senator Brown for his leadership, which has led to a farm bill that continues to invest in organic and sustainable agriculture and bolsters the future of community markets, local food businesses, and working lands conservation," said Carol Goland, Executive Director of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
"Senator Brown's work will ensure that farmers and businesses in Ohio have access to capital and development support to build our state's rural economy. The National Association of Counties deeply appreciates the Senator's bipartisan work on these common-sense policy solutions in the Farm Bill," said Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason, President of the National Association of Counties.
Below are some provisions Brown inserted in the farm bill.
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.
With this bill, the era of direct payments --paying farmers for crops regardless of need or market conditions -- is over. The legislation 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 eliminating direct payments and two other farm subsidy programs -- steps first suggested in ARRM -- the 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.
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.
Earlier this year, Brown outlined how the "Grow it Here, Make it Here" initiative would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of biobased products, and further the commercialization of new agricultural innovations to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create jobs. 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.
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.