As Ohio’s first Senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than forty years, Sherrod is fighting to support the state’s farmers and its number one industry–agriculture. More than 1 out of 7 Ohioans are employed in an agricultural related business. Sherrod was new to the committee in 2007, but he was not new to agriculture. During summers and school vacations, he worked on his grandparents’ farm, cleaning gutters and putting up hay for a herd of Guernseys.
Small towns and agricultural communities are all too often overlooked and underserved. Sherrod is fighting for family farmers throughout Ohio by strengthening the farm safety-net, creating opportunities for direct marketing of local food, championing reforms that keeps more money in the hands of farmers and less for crop insurance companies. And he is working hard to create more economic opportunity in rural Ohio by expanding access to broadband, fighting for agricultural exports, and encouraging rural businesses who are expanding into the clean energy sector.
A key tenet of Sherrod’s strategy for creating jobs in rural Ohio is to expand broadband Internet access to every Ohioan. Brown led the fight in Congress to dedicate crucial broadband funding to rural Ohio. As a result, in August 2010, the USDA and Department of Commerce announced the funding of Ohio’s Middle Mile Consortium (OMMC), a public-private state-wide partnership, will receive more than $141 million in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for broadband expansion. This includes more than $66 million to fund the Connecting Appalachia Broadband Plan, which expands broadband into 34 Ohio Appalachian and rural counties.
Using his role on the Agriculture Committee, Sherrod is helping connect family farmers with Ohio families who want access to fresh, local food. Local and regional food markets benefit consumers and the farmers who can obtain a higher price for their products. Ohio families need greater access to healthy, locally-grown foods and family farmers need access to a greater variety of markets.
Sherrod introduced the Food Outreach and Opportunity Development (FOOD) for a Healthy America Act to help deliver farmers build the supply chains necessary to deliver fresh fruits vegetables to underserved communities. After a successful negotiation, this legislation was adopted as part of the 2008 Farm Bill and will promote locally-led food access initiatives that increase the availability and affordability of healthy and fresh foods, increase fruits and vegetables in school meals, and remove barriers that keep local farmers from selling products to schools.
Sherrod understands the importance of family farms to Ohio and traveled across the state on a Farm Bill listening tour to gather ideas on how to improve the farm safety-net. At one of these meetings, a farmer from Northwest Ohio suggested the creation of a modern safety-net that helped farmers protect themselves against disasters but would cost less to taxpayers than that the traditional farm programs. Sherrod led the effort to develop and write this proposal into the 2008 Farm Bill and today, for the first time, Ohio farmers have a choice in farm programs that allows them to choose between traditional farm programs and a new program that protects against drops in yield or prices — a critical issue for farmers in an uncertain farm economy. After a year of poor prices for Ohio wheat farmers, the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program, made the first payments to Ohio farmers in September 2010.
In 2008, Sherrod was named legislator of the year by the National Corn Growers Association for his work on the ACRE program and the 2008 Farm Bill.
A combination of steep increases in feed prices and low dairy prices was leading quickly to a crisis in the dairy sector in 2008. The uncertainty of dairy markets and dramatic swings in prices were making it more and more difficult for Ohio’s small dairy farmers to get by. As a result Sherrod introduced the Dairy Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Act, which would extend mandatory country of origin labeling to dairy products, assisting dairy farmers in a crowded marketplace, as well as enabling households to know where their cheese and milk is produced. Sherrod also urged the Administration to make emergency payments and loans to Ohio dairy farmers to get them through the crisis. Sherrod will continue to fight for the economic well-being of family dairy farms across Ohio.