With one in seven Ohio jobs connected to agriculture, it’s obvious just how vital farming is to our state.
That’s one of the reasons I’m honored to represent our state’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as Ohio’s first Senator on the Agriculture Committee in more than four decades. Over the last year, as part of my “Grown in Ohio” listening tour, I’ve had the opportunity to hear directly from farmers, business leaders, and community officials about how we can reform our agriculture policy so that it’s more responsive to the needs of farmers and rural communities and fairer to taxpayers.
That’s why I’m fighting to pass the 2012 farm bill, which reflects locally-identified priorities of Ohio’s rural communities, bolsters Ohio’s number one industry to create jobs, and strengthens our economy while reducing the deficit.
Reauthorized only once every five years, the farm bill offers an opportunity to adjust our farm, food, conservation and rural policies.
In addition to continuing natural resource conservation and investments in nutrition, this farm bill includes the most significant reforms to farm policy in decades.
It eliminates more than 100 duplicative programs and authorizations, and takes steps to crack down on fraud and abuse to make sure only those who are eligible for benefits receive them. And because this deficit-reducing bill saves some $23 billion in taxpayer dollars, this is a bill for all Ohioans.
The centerpiece of the bill’s reform and deficit reduction efforts is an overhaul of the farm safety net, modeled on a bill I introduced last year with Republican Senator Thune- called the Aggregate Risk and Revenue Management Program (ARRM).
Our proposal and the 2012 farm bill eliminate the existing network of direct farm support programs in favor of a less expensive, market-oriented safety net that will kick in only when times are tough. With this bill, the era of direct payments – and paying farmers for crops regardless of need or market conditions – is over.
The farm bill makes simple commonsense reforms. The bill also limits the amount of farm program payments any individual can receive.
While directing $23 billion to deficit reduction, the 2012 farm bill also supports the biobased-products industry and continued investment that can create jobs in Ohio. Companies producing biobased products, which are composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients, are creating jobs in Ohio’s small towns and rural communities, and generating a link between agriculture and manufacturing.
Last September at OSU, I held a roundtable with Ohio’s biobased leaders to discuss the need for an Ohio-led, U.S. biobased industry. Ideas from this roundtable helped establish the “Grow it here, Make it Here” initiative, which has been included in the farm bill and will help create new market opportunities for Ohio farmers and some 130 biobased manufacturers in our state.
Similarly, many Ohio farmers explained to me that they see opportunities for growth right in state, selling to Ohioans who want to buy Ohio-grown and Ohio-made goods.
These comments contributed to my Local Farms, Foods and Jobs Act, which would forge closer links between Ohio producers and consumers by addressing production, aggregation, marketing, and distribution needs.
The bill would also improve consumer access to healthy, fresh food with support for technology and direct sales and many components of my bill are included in the farm bill.
Since our nation’s food and agriculture policy affects all Americans every day, it is crucial to ensure that the 2012 farm bill creates jobs, and provides economic relief to those in need. The 2012 farm bill is a bipartisan reform bill that saves taxpayers billions of dollars while maintaining investments in the economy, the environment, and public health.
There is no excuse to delay its passage. We must act swiftly to pass the 2012 farm bill.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.