COLUMBUS, Ohio – As Congress works this week on a new Farm Bill, Ohio farmers say policy changes are needed to support practices that improve public health, spur the rural economy and enhance natural resources.
Programs they say are critical to the success of sustainable farming could be cut, including the National Organic Certification Cost-Share program, which is used by about 40 percent of organic farmers in Ohio.
Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Creamery in Kent said these programs help businesses such as hers grow.
“When funding is allocated to small food- and farm-based entrepreneurs that are farming in a way that is sustainable, it’s good for everyone,” she said. “You get healthy, nutritious products to market, you get healthy food systems, and economic development in areas where there might not have otherwise been.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reintroduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act as part of this year’s Farm Bill. It includes money and reforms for the National Organic Certification Cost-Share and Farmers Market Promotion programs, both of which have not been funded since October.
The House Agriculture Committee is to debate funding for these programs today. On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill, fully funding both programs.
Farm Bill programs can boost business for the small guys, said Turner, who used the Value-Added Producer Grant to develop a dessert sauce made with goat’s milk and take it to a food show in Washington, D.C.. She said her product will be launched this fall.
“Just the exposure we got at the national show – we have a teeny little manufacturing plant in Kent, Ohio, and getting national exposure regarding what wonderful products can come out Ohio,” she said. “Without the VAPG we never would have been able to do the science or the marketing. It’s an exciting thing.”
Congress hasn’t passed a Farm Bill since 2008. Many Ohio farmers that rely on Farm Bill programs that have been without funding since fall are waiting eagerly to find out which programs and reforms will be included in the final bill.