Today, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, legislation that includes provisions authored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that would save taxpayers $24 billion, while creating jobs and boosting rural development. Brown included a number of provisions into the base text of the bill in addition to amendments that were included in the Senate Agriculture Committee mark-up.
"One in seven Ohio jobs is related to food and agriculture. By eliminating direct payments, improving crop insurance, and boosting local food production and biobased manufacturing, the Senate has taken the first step toward sending to the President a five-year farm bill," Brown said. "This bill saves more than $24 billion while maintaining important investments in conservation, nutrition, renewable energy, and rural development. Farmers across Ohio have told me they want a leaner, more efficient, and market-oriented farm safety net. Taxpayers deserve that too. This bill will reduce wasteful spending while investing in critical development projects that will strengthen our communities and support rural economies."
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 payments". ARC is market-based program that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields, making payments to farmers only when the market fails--and only for crops they have actually planted.
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.
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 would 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 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.
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. 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.