Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown announced Wednesday that there would be some updates added to the 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the bill last week and its updates would provide relief for more than 86 percent of Ohio dairy farmers. The updates continue Brown’s focus on improving the safety net programs put in place to help farmers in the state.
In a conference call with agriculture journalists on Thursday, Brown — a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee — highlighted his effort to ensure Ohio farmers have options when it comes to risk assessment.
“This week we had another hearing, this one on the farm safety net,” Brown said. “One hundred thousand Ohio farmers took advantage of the safety net program last year, many of them in the ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage) county program.”
The ARC program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, paid out more than $4 million to producers last year. “Protecting these risk-management programs will be one of my top priorities in the ’18 Farm Bill.”
The Agriculture Appropriations Bill included several updates that would benefit dairy farmers. Specifically, the updates would “substantially reduce premiums for farmers’ first five million pounds of milk, adjusted from the reduced premium cap of four million pounds of milk.” The bill would also “lower premiums for participating dairy farmers” and “change the margin calculation from bi-monthly to monthly so it is more responsive to market conditions.”
It would also “Waive the administrative fee for underserved farmers including beginning farmers.”
Brown said with average farm incomes dropping, it is a very important time to evaluate all these risk programs. “I want to hear directly from Ohio farmers. I will be holding more round-tables around the state over the coming year. Pretty much everything I’ve been able to get included in the last two farm bills have come from those round-tables.”
He also noted that, in addition to personally working toward getting Ohio taken care of, he wants to bring U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, to the state since he may not be “knowledgeable about the uniqueness of Ohio Ag.” One of his many focuses being getting the right people together at the national level to understand and work with the needs of Ohio’s rural communities. The announcement came on the heels of the Senate’s healthcare discussions.
“To me, it’s despicable that senators with taxpayer funded healthcare are voting to saddle working families with higher costs and less coverage,” Brown said. The danger being with cuts to Medicaid, it could cause some hospitals — specifically those which serve rural communities, to close. “It would absolutely force them to cut services, would force them to lay off people and in many, many of the counties in this state, the hospital is the largest employer.”
He also talked about the opioid addiction issues plaguing the state and that the number one way to combat the problem is Medicaid. “In Ohio right now, 200,000 people are getting opioid treatment,” he said. “200,000 people are getting treatment because they have insurance from the Affordable Care Act.”
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.