In Ohio, one out of every seven jobs is connected to growing, processing, and distributing the food we eat. In fact, agriculture and food contribute more than $107 billion dollars to our state’s economy each year. That’s why, time and again—in roundtables and over coffee, on farms and at forums—Ohioans have told me that they need a strong farm bill. And that’s why I’m fighting for one.
Recently, I was honored to be named a member of the farm bill conference committee that will work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. This means that I will be working with my Senate and House colleagues to help finalize a 2013 farm bill. Conference committee meetings begin this week, and in these meetings, I will fight to ensure that we pass a bill that benefits Ohio farmers, producers, taxpayers, and rural communities.
The Senate, for the second year in a row, passed a strong, bipartisan bill that implements critical farm safety reforms and saves taxpayers $23 billion while investing in Ohio’s number one industry. This farm bill is forward thinking, yet realistic.
Unfortunately, for two years, the House was unable to join the Senate in passing a bill. Last year, the House simply failed to act – a failure that hurt farmers and cost taxpayers. This year, the House broke a 40-year bipartisan, farm bill tradition. While policy makers and farmers have recognized for decades that nutrition and food production are closely linked, for the first time ever, the House separated farm and nutrition programs into two, separate bills. This approach was opposed by Farm Bureau and more than 500 other agriculture, commodity, and rural development groups because they know that splitting the bill will hurt American agriculture.
And when the Members of the House finally did pass a bill, they did it along party lines. Instead of passing the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill, the U.S. House of Representatives opted for a bill that fails to provide producers with long-term certainty and the smarter, more efficient safety net they deserve. To add insult to injury, the House finances this temporary solution with significant cuts to long-term investments in soil, water, and wildlife conservation.
When I talk to farmers around the state, I hear how the House of Representatives’ inability to pass a comprehensive farm bill has lead to uncertainty; it makes planning business more difficult and has also affected planting decisions.
This farm bill is a jobs and innovation bill, an economic relief and development bill, and it affects every American every day
This bill not only strengthens the farm safety net, but it will invest in Ohio’s rural communities. Whether it is a water/sewer project in Henry County, a low interest loan to Buckeye Power, or bringing broadband to southeast Ohio, this bill is too important for our state to let partisan politics get in the way.
The nation’s agricultural sector cannot afford another short term extension that funds some programs but not others.
It’s time to pass a bill that saves taxpayers, ensures that farmers are planting for the market and not the program, and continues to invest in rural Ohio.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.