WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Agriculture Committee’s newly released bipartisan Farm Bill includes key provisions U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) authored and fought for to better support Ohio farmers, protect Lake Erie, spur economic development in rural Ohio and feed hungry families. The Senate Agriculture Committee plans to consider the bill next week and, as a senior member of the committee, Brown will continue to work to secure additional Ohio victories as the bill moves through the process.
Brown secured these priorities after hearing from Ohio farmers and stakeholders during a series of roundtable discussions he hosted throughout the state.
According to a 2017 Ohio State University report on the “Economic Contribution of Agricultural and Food Production to the Ohio Economy,” Ohio’s agricultural and food production sector accounts for $1 in every $13 of the state’s GSP, and 1 in 8 jobs in Ohio.
“This bipartisan bill is good for farmers, good for families, good for taxpayers, good for jobs, and good for Lake Erie,” Brown said. “I’ve met with Ohioans around the state and they are counting on Congress to put partisan politics aside and work together to pass this bill. I am committed to working with my partners in the Senate to get the job done.”
Brown is the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years.
There are several key provisions in the bipartisan Senate Farm Bill that Brown introduced and fought to secure, including:
— Brown’s Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act. This bill would help farmers sell their products directly to consumers, create rural jobs, and invest in local and regional food economies. The Senate bill, for the first time, provides permanent funding for farmers markets, local food systems, and the popular Value Added Producer grant program and other local food programs that help farmers sell their products and expand their businesses. It establishes a new Harvesting Health program to make local healthy produce available to more Ohio communities. Research has shown that access to fruit and vegetables can reduce hospital visits and reduce the side effects of chronic diseases.
— Provisions from Brown’s water quality improvement bill, the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act. Brown introduced this bill alongside Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Bob Casey (D-PA). This legislation will improve water quality in Lake Erie and across Ohio by refocusing federal investments to improve water quality and soil health. These efforts will improve federal conservation programs and better support Ohio farmers by reforming the three largest conservation funding programs to protect waterways while expanding access to quality farmland. USDA research has shown that continued use of conservation buffers and cover crops can play an important role in reducing run-off in the Western Lake Erie Basin. With farmland playing such an important role in both Ohio’s economy and environment, is important that farmers have the resources they need to protect local waterways while continuing to farm their land. This bill would 1) create a new Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) Initiative, which prioritizes enrolling lands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that will best prevent runoff and protect water quality. Studies have shown that targeting these sensitive lands and reducing erosion and run-off can reduce phosphorous run-off and improve water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin; 2) authorize advanced payments for beginning farmers as a part of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). This program would reserve funding for conservation practices that protect drinking water; and 3) include reforms to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which would prioritize cover crops and crop rotations.
— Provisions that would make improvements to dairy programs in order to better target support for small- and medium-sized producers. The Farm Bill replaces the Margin Protection Program (MPP) with the Dairy Risk Coverage program, which invests an additional $100 million to improve affordability, flexibility, and effectiveness for Ohio dairy farmers. This builds off the work done by Senator Brown in the 2018 budget bill. As a part of the bipartisan deal reached earlier this year, Brown secured a major improvement to the farm safety net for Ohio’s dairy farmers to help them recover from tough economic times. That provision made specific updates to the 2014 Farm Bill’s MPP to reduce costs for dairy farms; waive the administrative fee for underserved farmers including beginning farmers, young people and veterans; make the program more responsive to drops in prices and increases in feed costs; and invest $1 billion in the dairy safety net.
— Provisions that protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for hungry families in Ohio. Brown pushed to help protect families in need by helping avoid harmful eligibility changes that would force working families to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops. The bill would also include the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant program and create permanent, mandatory baseline funding. This program was created to incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP clients. Brown worked with colleagues to fund this program in the 2014 bill and fought for its expansion in the 2018 bill.