WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the U.S. Senate debates the 2012 Farm Bill this week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined how provisions he authored in the 2012 farm bill would save taxpayers $23 billion, while creating jobs and boosting rural development. With more than 16 million American jobs tied to agriculture - and with one in seven Ohio jobs is related to the food and agriculture industry- Brown called on the Senate to swiftly pass the 2012 farm bill.
"This bipartisan bill is a comprehensive agriculture reform bill that saves taxpayers billions of dollars," Brown said. "It is a job creation bill, an economic relief bill, and a bill that affects every American every day. This farm bill is a reform bill that we can be proud of and that helps lay the groundwork for our nation's economic competitiveness for generations to come."
During a news conference call today, Brown outlined how the bipartisan farm bill, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, would help Ohioans. He released a county-by-county chart of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency loans to farmers and a regional map detailing how programs authorized in the Farm Bill affect Ohio.
Protecting Taxpayers while Ensuring a Strong Safety Net for Farmers
Brown, who is the first Ohioan on Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years and serves as Chairman of its Subcommittee on Jobs, Rural Economic Growth and Energy Innovation, outlined how the centerpiece of the deficit reduction measures in the bill - based on the bipartisan Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management Act (ARRM) he authored with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) - would end the era of paying farmers for crops they do not grow. These "direct payments" would be replaced by a market-based system that relies on current crop-year data, market prices, and actual yields. The Senate's bipartisan 2012 farm bill represents the most significant reform of American agriculture policy in decades.
Building on the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program - which Brown passed in the 2008 Farm Bill after it was suggested by a Henry County farmer who attended a roundtable Brown convened - ARRM overhauls the farm safety net by eliminating fixed-price support programs, reducing overlap with crop insurance, simplifying application and administrative processes, and saving billions of taxpayer dollars. ARRM has served as the framework for the new Ag Risk Coverage (ARC) program in the Senate farm bill.
With this bill, the era of direct payments -paying farmers for crops regardless of need or market conditions - is over. The legislation would save more than $23 billion by ending direct payments, eliminating more than 100 duplicative programs and authorizations, and cracking down on fraud and abuse. By eliminating direct payments and two other farm subsidy programs - steps first suggested in ARRM - the legislation would save taxpayers money and provide a more responsible risk management approach. Under the bill, farmers receive support only when they suffer a substantial loss through events beyond their control--and only for crops they haveactually planted.
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.
"Agriculture remains Ohio's number one industry--and manufacturing is one of our state's most important industries. Partnering these two industries could be a boon for our state," Brown said. "Ohio already has what it takes to lead the nation in this emerging field: a skilled workforce, strong agricultural sector, and culture of manufacturing and innovation. We are home to more than 130 companies that use agricultural crops to make new products ranging from natural cleaners to biobased paint and soy ink and toner. These companies create jobs--and new markets for our farmers and our manufacturers."
Earlier this year, Brown outlined how the "Grow it Here, Make it Here" initiative would increase access to capital for biobased manufacturers, improve marketing of biobased products, and further the commercialization of new agricultural innovations to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and create jobs. 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.
Expanding Markets for Farmers and Increasing Availability of Nutritious Locally-Grown Food
Brown also outlined how provisions of his Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, included in the 2012 Farm Bill, would help Ohio farmers and ranchers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing and distribution need. Aimed at helping more farmers sell their products directly to consumers, the legislation would create jobs by assisting farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs. It would also ensure that consumers have better access to nutritious, locally-grown food.
"Linking Ohio producers with Ohio consumers is common sense. By increasing access to fresh, local foods, we can expand markets for Ohio's agricultural producers while creating jobs and strengthening our economy," Brown said.
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.