Brown presses to protect water, help farmers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) urged U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to continue investing in conservation programs that allow farmers to prevent runoff and protect water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

During a hearing for the Senate Agriculture Committee this week, Brown condemned proposals in the House to slash conservation funding by nearly $1 billion in the next Farm Bill. Brown told Perdue the USDA cannot walk away from the programs farmers are using to improve water quality across Western Ohio. Brown also urged the Secretary to extend a three-year, $41 million program that Brown helped create in 2016 that aims to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms.

“Investing in the conservation programs that help producers prevent runoff is good for farmers, it’s good for taxpayers, and it’s good for our environment,” Brown said. “By making sure we have the federal resources to tackle runoff and pollution, we can better ensure that Lake Erie and its tributaries remain viable resources for Ohio businesses and residents.”

Senator Brown has been working to support farmers and protect the water quality of Lake Erie by helping producers reduce runoff. Last month, Brown introduced bipartisan legislation called the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Bob Casey (D-PA), which would refocus federal investments to improve water quality and soil health, while also maintaining profitable farmland. Brown said these efforts would improve federal conservation programs and better support local farmers by reforming the three largest conservation funding programs to protect waterways while expanding access to quality farmland. With farmland playing such an important role in both Ohio’s economy and environment, Brown said it is important that farmers have the resources they need to protect local waterways while continuing to farm their land.

The GROW Act would do the following:

Create a new Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) program to better promote water quality. This prioritizes enrolling lands in the Conservation Reserve Program that will best prevent runoff and protect water quality.

Reserve funding within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for conservation practices that protect drinking water.

Makes prime farmland ineligible for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Makes a number of improvements to the Conservation Stewardship Program to make the program more user-friendly for farmers.

Brown, the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, is helping write the 2018 Farm Bill. In 2014, Brown was part of the Farm Bill Conference Committee that successfully negotiated a five-year farm bill. Brown is currently participating in hearings being held in the Senate Agriculture Committee on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Brown and his office are also hosting a series of ongoing roundtable discussions with Ohio farmers and stakeholders to discuss their priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill.

Brown is also working with his colleague Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and the Ohio Congressional delegation to restore funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Brown and Portman helped ensure the government funding measure passed last year, included $300 million for GLRI for the remainder of the fiscal year, battling back reported attempts to cut the GLRI by $50 million.