The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of a Farm Bill and sent it to the full chamber, which is expected to vote before the July 4 recess. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a committee member, says there’s a lot in the bill for Ohio.
He says it’s as much a food bill as farming. In fact, most of the dollars involved go to the SNAP program for food stamps.
But unlike the House proposal that failed to pass, the Senate version does not include a Trump Administration mandate that many recipients must have a job or be in job training. Brown says their bill would help get healthy farm produce to the poor.
“It will mean better health for low income people,” Brown says. “It will mean that food stamp dollars, SNAP dollars, go further. It will mean that farmers do better who sell their crops in town, directly. And unlike any Farm Bill before, it provides permanent funding for farmer’s markets.”
Part of the Farm Bill also provides funding for conservation programs that prevent farm runoff from harming Lake Erie, and more.
“We always were looking at what this means to Lake Erie and keeping the lake clean,” Brown says. “We looked at rural broadband issues. We know that in certain parts of the state, especially southeast Ohio, young people and entrepreneurs have trouble meeting their challenges of schoolwork or growing their businesses because of broadband.“
The bill also funds agriculture research and the extension services that The Ohio State University provides to residents.
Brown says he and his staff held about 18 meetings with farmers and other stakeholders around the state to gather ideas.
The House version of the Farm Bill failed a vote in May, after moderate Republicans failed to capture enough support from either conservatives or Democrats. Democrats rejected the bill’s restrictions on SNAP recipients, while conservatives wanted promises on immigration reform.
The House is expected to make a second attempt at passing its bill next week. The two chambers must agree on a bill by the end of September, when the current program expires.
The farm bill is up for renewal every five years.