The best ideas don’t come out of Washington – they come out of conversations with Ohioans.
That was on display last week as Republicans and Democrats came together to support provisions I worked with Ohio farmers and small business owners to include in the 2018 Farm Bill. We passed the bill out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on a broad bipartisan vote, and it could come to the full Senate floor as early as next week.
This bill is a big win for Ohio. It will provide certainty for Ohio farmers, protect Lake Erie, spur economic development in rural Ohio, and feed hungry children and their families.
As we worked on the Farm Bill, I held roundtables and talked with farmers and community leaders all across our state, including talking with Ohio Dairy farmers in Wooster about how the current dairy program wasn’t working for them. We already worked to improve the program in the bipartisan budget deal this spring, and we built on that work by improving the Agriculture Risk Program for Ohio farmers, so that it can better target support for small and medium-sized producers.
We also secured important provisions from my bipartisan water quality improvement bill, the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work – or the GROW Act. I worked with Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley on this bill to improve water quality and better support Ohio farmers by refocusing federal investments, targeting sensitive land to prevent runoff into Lake Erie and protect water quality – all while expanding access to quality farmland. These provisions will help reduce harmful algal blooms, and improve soil health across Ohio.
We made it a bipartisan priority to protect hungry families. These are often working families with children, who work long hours at low-wage jobs with paychecks that don’t stretch far enough to cover high rents and groceries.
That’s why I pushed back against efforts to add unnecessary bureaucratic hoops and regulation, and make sure Ohio families get the food they need to keep kids from going hungry.
I also heard from a lot of folks about the challenges of connecting farmers who are looking to find new markets for their products with Ohio families eager to buy fresh, locally-grown food.
It’s a pretty simple idea – why should Ohioans buy raspberries from California, when they could buy them from a farm in Knox or Clinton County? When we make it easier for Ohioans to buy food grown or raised in Ohio, everyone wins.
That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Local FARMs bill with Republican Susan Collins, which we included in the Farm Bill. That provision will provide permanent funding to help farmers increase their profits by selling directly to consumers. It will create rural jobs, and invest in local and regional food economies.
At a time when it doesn’t seem like much bipartisan cooperation happens in Washington, we worked together on the Ag Committee, across party lines, and produced real results for Ohio.
This bill is good for farmers, good for families, good for taxpayers, good for jobs, and good for Lake Erie. I’m committed to working with my colleagues of both parties to get this bill across the finish line and signed into law this year.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.