With more than 98 percent of Ohio experiencing severe or moderate drought conditions -- and with the current farm bill set to expire on Sep. 30 -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the U.S. House of Representatives to schedule a vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan, five-year farm bill that provides critical assistance to farmers affected by drought. During a news conference call, Brown outlined how the Senate-passed farm bill contains critical risk management and disaster response provisions for Ohio's farmers and agricultural producers.
"Farmers and livestock producers need certainty to plan and manage their businesses and they are not going to get it from the weather," Brown said. "Although USDA resources help some Ohioans get back on their feet, passing the Senate farm bill reauthorizes critical disaster programs which expired last year and makes much-needed reforms by building on crop insurance and creating a safety net to assist farmers when prices drop or when natural disaster strikes."
State Climatologist Jeff Rogers, of the Ohio State University, reported on the record-low rainfall and the areas of Ohio likely to be further affected by drought. Last week, Fulton, Williams, Defiance, Paulding, and Van Wert Counties were designated contiguous areas and, as a result, are eligible for a variety of USDA tools, like Farm Service Agency emergency loans with lowered interest rates. Alex Ward, a corn and soybean producer from Champaign County, discussed what this summer's drought conditions will mean for both producers and consumers. A USDA fact sheet is here.
Passed in June, the Senate farm bill--a five year bill that saves $23 billion--includes provisions that would help all producers better mitigate risk and make it through tough times--like the extreme heat and drought affecting Ohio and the nation in 2012. Instead of passing the Senate's bipartisan farm bill, the U.S. House of Representatives is opting for a disaster package that fails to provide producers with the long-term certainty and the smarter, more efficient safety net they deserve. In addition to the new safety net program -- Ag Risk Coverage (ARC), the Senate farm bill:
Strengthens, streamlines, and reinstates Livestock Disaster Programs for 2012 and makes them permanent
Reauthorizes the Tree Assistance Program
Provides new crop insurance options for fruit and vegetable growers
Strengthens conservation efforts to protect farmland and prevent another Dust Bowl
Improves crop insurance by adjusting average production history (APH) by increasing the county transition yield from 60 to 70 percent in the event of a disaster; and
Provides lowered crop insurance premiums for beginning farmers and ranchers whose bottom lines are usually tight.
Brown, who serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, is the first Ohioan on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years.