On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee passed the 2018 Senate Farm Bill. In a conference call Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D—OH) focused on the role Ohio farmers and other stakeholders played in shaping the provisions he introduced to the bill.
Over the course of many roundtables held by Brown and his staff, he listened to the concerns of the people the farm bill will directly impact and worked to address these concerns in his provisions.
One focus of Brown’s provisions is “connecting farmers to finding new markets for their products,” he said. “It’s simple, why should Ohioans buy raspberries from California when they can buy them from a farm in Knox County?”
Brown’s Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act would help farmers to sell their products directly to consumers, would create rural jobs, and would invest in local and regional food economies, he said.
In addition, improving water quality in Lake Erie and across Ohio is one of Brown’s key focuses. Cleaning up Lake Erie and keeping it free from pollution must be an ongoing endeavor, according to Brown.
“You can’t just clean up Lake Erie and walk away,” he said.
The Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act would improve upon federal conservation funding programs and benefit Ohio farmers by protecting waterways while expanding access to quality farmland, according to Brown.
The Farm Bill would also replace the Margin Protection Program (MPP) with the Dairy Risk Coverage program. This program will entail spending an additional $100 million that will benefit Ohio dairy farmers. Brown said he spoke with Ohio dairy farmers about the aspects of the current dairy program that aren’t working for them before introducing the Dairy Risk Coverage program. The Dairy Risk Coverage program has been designed with the needs of small and medium-sized dairy producers in mind.
Brown also introduced provisions that he said will protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The provisions are aimed at preventing the creation of unnecessary hurdles that would make it difficult for members of the working poor to receive the SNAP benefits they depend upon.
According to Brown, crafting the Farm Bill has been “a model of bipartisan cooperation.” He expects the bill to come up for a vote before July 4. “I would predict we’d get at least 65 maybe 70 votes…we will get at least half of both parties to support this because it was written in a way to do that,” said Brown.
Although Brown is confident the bill will easily pass the Senate, he is less certain how it will fare in the House.
“I can’t predict the House because of…their incompetence and extremism, you know, they couldn’t even pass a bill before,” he said.
Congress will have until the end of September to get the bill to the President before the current Agricultural Act of 2014 expires.
“There’s just no excuse for Congress not being able to get this bill to the President sometime in September,” said Brown.
Vice president of the American Soybean Association, Davie Stephens, shared Brown’s sentiment that passing the bill before the current law expires is extremely important. According to americanagriculturist.com, he said, “Farmers need the certainty of a new five-year bill to manage continuing low crop prices and farm income as well as volatile conditions affecting our vital export markets. We urge the Senate Committee to act on this legislation as soon as possible and for the full Senate to consider it before the July Congressional recess.”
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